You go to a famous landmark, you take a selfie in front of it and upload it to Instagram. Soon, your mom and everyone else starts complimenting your looks and the world wonder in the background becomes just that. A background. But artist Stephanie Leigh Rose has found a way to document her travels while keeping it all about the wonderful sight she's visiting.
"The entire point of STEFDIES, is that the viewer is allowed to participate in the image-, whether that is by imagining the circumstances of the surrounding image, or in recreating the STEFDIES pose in their own photos." Stepahnie told Bored Panda. "My long hair (and swimsuit in selected photos) would allude to the fact I am a female, but outside of a viewer coming to one of my gallery shows and meeting me personally, I prefer to keep STEFDIES neutral and free of age, nationality, politic, socioeconomic status. STEFDIES is a character of its own, and I invite people to connect with that, and interpret the scenes as they wish. Part of the joy and humor of STEFDIES, is no-one knows exactly what the hell is going on, and that’s pretty much a direct reflection of real life in general."
A STEFDIES photo is a moment in time. There is no preparation; Stephanie doesn't set anything up or use props, the images are as real as it gets. "All STEFDIES images occur spontaneously in my daily life," the artist said. "The images the viewer happens to see are the 25% of images that are useable. This is why a STEFDIES image is the opposite of a selfie. A selfie has controlled conditions, specific lighting, makeup/hair/wardrobe, an agenda, and is focused on the individual personality- it is a contrived and manipulated image distorted to achieve a desired result. STEFDIES is the polar opposite- I get one chance to get the shot, if it doesn’t happen, c'est la vie. We have one life to live, and we don’t get re-do’s- and i would like to think i try to capture that feeling, that fleeting sense of life and its impermanence, in my photos."
"There was an organic evolution to STEFDIES. The early STEFDIES photos were humor snapshots of my life, pretty much in times I was completely exhausted and amused by the situations I found myself in, and wanted to capture these moments in time, to be able to remember and reflect on those points in my life that seems utterly ridiculous. So STEFDIES has always been a direct reflection of my desire to hold onto these seemingly minor or huge moments of my life, that I knew would be washed away to the ravages of time or memory, if i didn’t capture them in their proper moment. Never perfect, as perfection is not what I aim for, but merely the reality of the situation in all of its imperfections."
"As I posted some of these initial shots, I received an incredible response from friends and strangers alike, something in the ridiculousness of these poses, or the reactions of the passer-by," Stephanie continued. "It brought them joy they wrote, it made their day a little bit brighter and brought them a much needed laugh. I realized I wanted to continue putting something positive into the world, while at the same time using art to synthesize my feelings and thoughts regarding our impermanence on this earth. The official STEFDIES slogan is 'leave a mark.' I'd like to think I’m doing that."
"For me as an artist and individual, I push myself to take these photos (in the most uncomfortable of situations) as it allows me to participate in capturing a moment in time physically as well as mentally and emotionally. I have to totally commit to being 'in the moment' to get that one shot."
What's crazy is that this level of mindfulness allows Stephanie to remember each and every STEFDIES shot she has even taken. Who she was with, what she saw and experienced. All of it. "I have to take myself out of my one head and get into the moment. Believe me, it’s really hard not to be present when you are face down eating dirt, and could be tempted at any time."
"I want to keep producing images that stir the imagination and produce joy for the viewer. I also want to continue to produce photos that are all age appropriate, and inclusive. For example, many school groups follow the STEFDIES series, as they considerate a good tool to teach young adults there are alternatives to the perfectionism of selfies and online culture."
"STEFDIES welcomes everyone to participate, and doesn’t care about about status or perfection," Stephanie explained. "I hope that STEFDIES promotes the idea of 'everyone is prefect exactly how they are, and not a damn thing has to be changed.'"
Stephanie couldn't remember when exactly she took the first STEFDIES picture, but said it was about eight years ago. Since then, there have been a lot of them. "As I mentioned earlier, there are many attempts but not all photos come to fruition. I would say [I took] over 1000 different images, but [only] a few hundred useable ones, and out of that only a handful that make it out on social media. One of my original intentions was to have a series of coffee table books that chronicle the STEFDIES series, so many images have not been released as they are being reserved for the book series."
And since the artist doesn't set anything up, a lot of strangers 'participate' in STEFDIES. But the way they feel about it differs from place to place. "It really depends on the city [and] culture where I take the shot," Stephanie said. "In Paris, for example, no one even noticed as they just assumed I was a crazy artist. Which I really liked, as it allowed me to run around the city and get these amazing shots. I do sort of worry though if anything actually did happen to me, if anyone would help? There have only been about 5 times in all the years I’ve done STEFDIES, that people came over to ask if I was OK."
Stefdies With Friends At Her Art Exhibit
And Stephanie's message has caught on. "STEFDIES has quite the following - as it should - they are super fun to do and always get a good laugh! We have a few hashtags people use - #stefdieswithme #stefdiesfan, etc. Many people will send me their interpretations of the STEFDIES pose, which I love!"
And if you want to join the movement, it's not that complicated. "Just have fun, and commit to the process!" Stephanie said. "Don't be afraid to look silly, and remember to be safe. Many don’t actually get the pose correct, as it requires the face to be completely flat on the ground (not to the side) but most people don’t like their mouth touching the disgusting items on the ground ... and rightfully so" The artist said you shouldn't wait for the perfect time or the perfect shot. "Just be yourself and that is good enough, and at the end of the day, incredibly interesting."