I took this picture one afternoon recently in a café in Krems an der Donau (Krems on the Danube), which is an hour west of Vienna in the scenic Wachau area. It was a chilly day. We’d done all our sightseeing. All we wanted was to sit down somewhere in the Altstadt (old town), and have a coffee.
Scooping the cream off the top of my einspänner, I couldn’t help but notice these three young girls giggling away a few metres from us, taking pictures of themselves. Always on the lookout for a bit of local colour, I took a few quick photos of them. I felt that in the unlikely event of them noticing me, given their preoccupation with taking the perfect selfie, they could hardly object to being photographed by someone else since they were using this public place, Café Berger, as their own private photo booth (remember those?).
The action of holding a phone up and pointing it back at yourself has a talismanic effect on some people. It makes them absolutely oblivious to their surroundings, something as a keen amateur photographer I’m happy to profit from. The girl in the middle, though, looks like she’d rather be somewhere else. In fact, she gives the picture a kind of three-monkeys, see-no-evil feel. That was a new one to me: the idea of the reluctant selfie-taker. I’ve only ever seen people put on a big selfie smile, and then, picture taken, allow their face resume normal service; never the other way around. Anyway, good luck to them. They added a splash of colour to the room, and at least they weren’t using a selfie stick.
In Austria, and Germany too, one presumes, a selfie-stick is called a Teleskopstab für das Handy, or Handy-Stab, since they’re handy for stabbing their owners with. They’ve already been banned in many museums and galleries in the States and Germany, and now the Albertina in Vienna has had the good sense to make them verboten too. But the reason they gave – waving a metal stick in the vicinity of priceless artworks isn’t a good idea – was, frankly, unsatisfying. And I don’t buy it for a second. They obviously wanted to allow the public, their paymasters after all, to enjoy the art in a wanker-free environment, as well they should.