Selfie projects are a dime a dozen. But Mike Mellia's "A selfie a day keeps the doctor away" series on Instagram rises above the rest with great composition, playful creativity and a sly, knowing commentary on modern self-obsession.
The fashion photographer, who has shot for clients including Vogue, Harry Winston, Brooks Brothers, Swatch and Christie's, posts regular (if not quite daily) selfies at @mikemellia—both still images and video loops (which are essentially cinemagraphs). All of the captions begin, "That one time…", and faux-pretentiously paint a picture of a languorously perfect life. (Oh, and he also mixes in super-cute pics of his baby daughter.)
Check out a bunch of the images below.
"That one time I was an ad man."
"That one time I made a bet with a Flemish perfumier."
"That one time I was out of the office."
"That one time I taught literature humanities at a small liberal arts college."
"That one time I ate fluffy marshmallows all afternoon in the Swiss Alps."
"That one time I had dinner at Ralph Lauren's house."
"That one time I had spring fever."
"That one time practice made perfect."
"That one time Bear Grylls picked me up in a helicopter."
AdFreak spoke with the New York City native and Columbia University graduate on Wednesday to talk about the craft and guile of the project.
AdFreak: How did you come up with the idea for this?
Mike Mellia: I always thought the way some younger people used Instagram was a cliché. It seemed like it was for self-obsessed people taking selfies, so I wanted to have my own ironic account, bombarding my colleagues with a barrage of outrageous selfies, and I was curious to see their responses.
I think there are elements of unbridled megalomania mixed with the everyday doldrums, which is reminiscent of many other Instagram accounts I've seen. I have a great time doing it, and it's also a way to keep challenging myself creatively.
Ironically, the composition and the styling in these ridiculous selfies often strongly influence my commercial advertising works, but of course done in a much more commercial way.
I like the looping videos in particular. How do you decide on the settings for those, and how difficult is it to make it a seamless loop?
Some of them are done in the studio against a neutral grey or earth-toned backdrop, and have kind of a painterly feeling, while the others are filmed on location or outdoors.
I think the painterly ones are humorous because they make reference to art history, which really is the beginning of all fashion photography. The ones filmed on location and outdoors are interesting to me because, since this is a personal project, I like to see if the project can travel around the world with me as I go.
There is an added element of the surreal mixed with the familiar that makes them so subtle and weird to me. They are video composites, which is somewhat of a daunting task, but with video becoming more in-demand in all areas of advertising, I wanted to keep challenging myself to keep pushing the technology as far as possible, while still sticking to my specific visual and photographic style.
When you watch major Hollywood production blockbuster movies, what they are able to do technology-wise is expanding exponentially every month!
What are you trying to "say," if anything, with the series?
I'm hoping that people can have fun with it and see that I'm laughing at myself a little bit and at where we have come as a society. At the same time, the project is such a specific format, that it's a creative game to keep pushing the series within those self-imposed boundaries.
Maybe a subtle message beneath the surface is that on social media, you can present yourself as anyone regardless of the reality, and in fact individuals are now using social media to "brand" themselves in the same way that large corporations do. I think this series takes this selfie and self-branding exercise to an extreme, while simultaneously trying to combine influences from fashion photography, art history, advertising and pop culture into something beautiful and enjoyable.
Plus, selfies and emojis are really all we need anymore to communicate, right?
Check out some of Mellia's still images below:
"That one time I played backgammon in an old warehouse in Mongolia."
"That one time I beat up Clint Eastwood."
"That one time I laughed at my own joke."
"That one time my daughter was born - Aria Adelaide Lanteri Mellia."
"That one time my daughter met her grandfather."
"That one time my Rolls-Royce got stuck in the snow."
"That one time I had a bad hair day."
"That one time the sea was angry that day my friends."
"That one time I sang at the opera."
"That one time I asked the workers of the world to unite."