That one time I was an unpaid intern at Santa's artisanal workshop for classic menswear
That one time I ran off to class at a New England prep school
That one time I watched the season premiere of the walking dead
That one time I was on the fence
That one time I couldn't make up my mind
That one time I got lost on the way to Whole Foods
For the past two and a half years, I have been posting a series of surreal animated selfies to my instagram account, accompanied by an overly contrived caption. When working on a long-term project with a very specific focus, there are so many interesting ideas about art theory and the creative process that you start being aware of. The first is from an interview with the painter Chuck Close, who believes that the more you work the more you find inspiration. His theory is that waiting for inspiration is not as effective as doing manual work like painting, because your mind begins to come up with ideas through your sub-conscious. I think this is true however even more relevant in a long-term creative project like this is the notion that you become inspired creatively by your own style. In other words, you are expanding on ideas that you already came up with yourself and by being influenced by yourself is the best way to be as original as possible. I think this is the more abstract conclusion of Chuck Close's argument and a much more important element to finding your own distinctive style.
The second element of creative art theory that I kept coming back to in this project was an idea from the performance artist Matthew Barney's idea. In his "Drawing Restraint" series he hypothesized that the more specific and the more restrictions you place on yourself and on your work the stronger the creative direction will be as a result. If there are no artificial restrictions placed on your project there is no tension for the creative to push up against. In other words, your creativity is not being deepened or challenged without a very specific set of parameters and confines to work within. In my case, the format was a series of animated GIF selfies always with myself, in a variety of circumstances, and always accompanied by a caption that begins with "That one time...". With these very narrow constraints, I it forces the series to delve deeper and deeper and keep pushing the boundaries and scenarios that I can come up with.
These are the two main lessons I learned over the past two and a half years of taking selfies. As a result these constraints, I was able to keep coming up with more and more outlandish scenes, keep, creating all these characters, and developing the worlds they lived in. Although I work as a commercial director and photographer, creating ad campaigns for fashion brands in New York and Europe, the selfie series is something that I keep coming back to during my travels, because after all, a selfie a day keeps the doctor away !
About the author: @mikemellia
Featured on Instagram's Mens Style Channel (with over 200,000 views), the everyday has never looked so whimsical. Mike Mellia's Instagram selfie series has also been the inspiration for many of the commercial works he has filmed for brands including The GAP, Swarovski, Hearst, Intel, Pierre et Vacances, BETC Paris and more in New York, France, and Italy.