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Time-lapse Selfies and Self-regard Over the Years

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Have you noticed that we've now become obsessed with how we change, or how we age, at least pictorially speaking?

Consider Boyhood, a new film from Richard Linklater, tracks a boy from the age of 5 to 18. The director filmed an actual boy and the actors who played his parents in brief periods over that time, and what we have is a real growing-up story.

The movie, which I haven't seen but which I've heard is a remarkable achievement, is perhaps a more professional or artistic example of those time-lapse photos that people take of themselves over the years, such as a father, mother and son posing for photos in roughly the same position over the course of 21 years.

Such photo compilations have become so popular that the satirical magazine The Onion, on its new Clickhole site -- a parody of Buzzfeed listicles and Upworthy-style uplifting attention-getting videos and stories -- mocked them with a story of a woman who photographed herself over the course of a week.

As the little article accompanying the photos says, "As the pictures go by, the photographer undergoes a spectacular transformation that serves as a beautiful reminder of just how profoundly we can change over the course of seven days. It's a moving testament to life's impermanence."

Yes. Isn't that profound? It's interesting that people keep an anniversary of doing this over the years and even decades. And it makes for a compelling look at how families age, or couples, or individuals.

We don't notice how we age until we see signs of it. We don't notice, perhaps, the body language of a family until we see it captured on film over the years -- the ones of the father, son and mother often seem to indicate a "let's get this over with" vibe. But beyond that, is there anything more here than the self-regard of people who want to record the passing of time with themselves as the subjects?

Well, Rembrandt painted dozens of self-portraits over the years, sometimes in costume, more often as himself, young, middle aged, older. But the self-portrait in art, especially the self-portrait of a great and profound explorer of the human psyche such as Rembrandt, gives us clues into existence and even our place in the world.

These self-portraits over time might aim to do the same. But looking at them, you tend to think -- "Wow, they've gotten old," or "Boy, they've put on weight," or "Hmm, they don't seem to be enjoying themselves." You rarely think, "Consider the implications of time on our understanding of ourselves in relation to the moral landscape."

But you might want to ask: How have I changed since then? You might not need a photo reminder to tell yourself that you shouldn't remain static in your life, your business, your emotional awareness. Others might, however. We live in an age of selfies, so it's perhaps inevitable that some people look to pictures of themselves as a way of considering the universe.

For me, though, I'd rather that my work and my outlook mature and grow, my horizons expand, rather than have a photo record of outward physical change.