New craze to hit Australia: the selfie stick

Alex Kyling and Linda Keizer use a selfie stick at the Opera House. Picture: WOLTER PEETERS
Alex Kyling and Linda Keizer use a selfie stick at the Opera House. Picture: WOLTER PEETERS

Stretching above the scrum at the Sydney Opera House is the "selfie stick" - an extendable pole for taking endless photos of you and you and you. You, too, Niklas Riutta, 21, of Finland, standing with your back to the Harbour Bridge, skin scalding and stick held high.

"When you have your selfie stick in your hand you can get the perfect shot of yourself," he says. "You don't need to ask anyone to take your photo."

There are hundreds of people here taking photographic self-portraits and not talking to each other. Rising over them are long metal poles clamped to smartphones or GoPro cameras, making a mockery of our failure to have arms twice as long as our bodies.

Selfie stick sales have soared across Southeast Asia and are growing in popularity here and in Europe. They're the latest craze in the emerging selfie economy - which has also seen people having plastic surgery or posing with man-eating tigers to look better in their own photos. 

Time magazine recently named the selfie stick, which usually works with a bluetooth remote control, as one of the best inventions of 2014, alongside a high-beta fusion reactor, super smart spacecraft and the hoverboard.

Holding his selfie stick at arm's length by the Opera House is George Lee, 19, an agricultural engineer from Yorkshire. The appendage makes him "self-sufficient", he says, and not reliant on the kindness or competence of strangers to take his photo. His stick stretches more than a metre, enabling him to photograph himself from anatomically impossible angles. "Your arm is only so long," he says, somewhat disappointed.

He has taken photographs of himself and friend Andy Hickson, 29, standing by the Harbour Bridge, swimming in the sea and riding a stone elephant.

"You are documenting yourself," Hickson says. "You just want to get your head in every place you've went to."

All around them are people snapping selfies in a way that makes it look like someone else has taken their photo, lest anyone think them alone and loney. Many don't smile in selfies, as if disappointed by what they see. 

Here, too, is Audrey Amparo, from the Philippines, who says her selfie stick is useful when travelling in a group. "This way everyone gets in the photo," she says. 

"But sometimes I just want to take a picture of myself, just to see myself happy."