'That one time I founded the Roman Empire,' and other selfie gems

Photographer Mike Mellia snaps a series of hilarious, absurd, selfie-style shots as a comment on rampant self-portraiture in the age of social media.

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"That one time I founded the Roman Empire." Mike Mellia

You've seen selfies snapped at funerals, at the site of plane crashes, and in cages, selfie snappers snuggled up to tigers.

But have you seen one of a guy pulling all his furniture out of a carpet bag? Yeah, we didn't think so.

Behold photographer Mike Mellia's marvelous Instagram series "A selfie a day keeps the doctor away." Every day since late June, the New York artist has posted a different image of himself, along with a corresponding caption, as an exploration of social media's impact on today's' self-portraiture.

"In social media, the prototypical 'selfie' usually lies at one of two extremes: either mundane normalcy or unbridled megalomania," writes the artist, whose own self-portraits amusingly range from "that one time it was raining" and "that one time my wife cropped my picture" to "that one time I founded the Roman Empire" and "that one time I asked the workers of the world to unite."

The series blends all sorts of modern and historical influences -- pop culture, advertising, art, technology -- with pitch-perfect costumes and props. "That one time I played backgammon in an old warehouse in Mongolia," reads the text next to an image of Mellia wrapped in a threaded gold headscarf.

"One of the biggest influences [of selfie culture] that interests me is the ability for a self-portrait to imply something much bigger and allegorical," the artist told Crave. "I started imagining all these different characters and situations, but still left them ambiguous and open to different interpretations. The captions that I include with each self-portrait are a fun way for me to expand the mood or exaggerate some of the elements in the images."

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"That one time I played backgammon in an old warehouse in Mongolia." Mike Mellia

In most of them, the mood could safely be described as ponderous. The tall, bearded hipster stares past the lens, brooding and introspective, as if contemplating life's most confounding mysteries, even during "that one time I went birdwatching."

Mellia has posted 24 images to his Instagram account so far, and plans to continue the series for "quite some time."

"I still have many new ideas," he told Crave, "and it's interesting when you see consistent unifying threads that are weaved throughout these individual stories even though it was done over a long period of time."

Selfies sometimes take a ribbing for being, well, self-centered, and Mellia himself cites "society's technology-driven vanity." But he doesn't think all selfies necessarily have an element of narcissism.

"I think it is more about telling a visual story," he said. "I started this Instagram account because I wanted to find a way to make Instagram my own and, as an artist, to tell stories in my own unique visual style. I think subconsciously this is also what many people are doing all around the world."

So far, the pictures are great, and I'm resisting the urge to take my own smiling selfie and caption it "that one time I couldn't stop laughing at Mike Mellia's selfie series."

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"That one time I beat up Clint Eastwood." Mike Mellia

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"That one time my wife cropped my picture." Mike Mellia

 

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