Looking at this selfie still makes my heart race and knees buckle!
As far as selfies go, I can’t compete with popes, presidents, and radical Russians, because as a photographer my job is to take the shots, not star in them. But when the opportunity arose to take the world’s first (and so far only) selfie with Jesus, I couldn’t resist.
I was in Brazil to document the preparations for this summer’s World Cup and I somehow ended up on a beach in Rio De Janeiro (weird how that keeps happening…)
Even though I had been to Rio many times and admired the iconic statue from afar, I had never had the time to visit the Christ the Redeemer Statue in person, let alone imagine snapping a selfie of me popping out of his head just two hours later!
A severe lightning storm had damaged the statue in January and I knew that workers were busy with repairs, so I decided to take a stab in the dark and managed to convince the Brazil tourist board to allow me to climb to the top and take some seriously vertigo-inducing photographs.
When I arrived at the foot of the 98-foot (38-metre) tall Statue and saw the platform awash with a sea of tourists, the gravity of what I was about to experience hit me and the butterflies in my stomach went nuts.
With the assistance of two high-wire workmen, (and armed with Go Pro cameras) we entered through scaffolding mounted on the feet and crawled in circles up 12 flights of rickety stairs that seemed to get narrower with every step.
Twenty minutes into the climb I reached the heart of the Christ made from beautiful Mosaics. After what felt like an eternity of pressing heat and pitch darkness, we finally reached the small compartment in Christ’s shoulder. I grabbed the rope and pulled myself along the smooth soapstone up into the head of the statue where we carefully opened the hatch. My heart was pounding with excitement and I couldn’t wait another second.
As I popped my head out of the hole in Jesus’ crown, I was in total and utter awe as my eyes met with a vast panorama that quite literally took my breath away. Talk about a religious experience! I’ve never been afraid of heights or tight spaces, but experiencing acrophobia, claustrophobia and profound awe at the same time was something truly remarkable.
Whether you call it a craze, a visual revolution, or simply a photographic form of graffiti, now that Merriam-Webster has added ‘selfie’ into the English dictionary, it looks like the idea is officially here to stay. Even Nasa recently confirmed that the Mars Rover has been pimped up to take selfies!
To some, taking pictures of yourself is considered vain, but this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity taught me that the selfie is a powerful medium through which we can share our perspectives, inspirations and personal stories with the world at large. It’s not about funny mugshots with scenic backdrops or daredevil stunts. It’s a way to mark the moment and say, “I was here”.
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Photos: Lee Thompson and Flash Pack