Another Person Dies Taking a Selfie: The Question Is Why?

Another Person Dies Taking a Selfie: The Question Is Why?

A 38-year-old woman plunged to her death at a well-known Instagram photo spot in Australia on Saturday. As sad and regrettable as this is, the real question is why do people keep risking life and limb for a photo?

Sadly, the woman plunged 80 meters to her death at the infamous Boroka Lookout in the Grampian National Park, Victoria, Australia. According to reports, she deliberately climbed over a barrier railing before she fell. What's even more shocking is that her family witnessed the entire horrifying event. This particular lookout has become a favorite for Instagram photographers, having been tagged over 6,000 times. It's not the first time someone has been fatally injured there either, as a 59-year-old woman fell to her death there as far back as 1999. 

Barriers, railings, and warning signs have all been erected, but they don't seem to deter photographers intent on getting their shot, regardless of danger. However, it is dangerous, and it can be fatal. As the Police Minister, Lisa Neville, said: "That is dangerous behavior, and yesterday should be a stark reminder that anyone who wants to do those extreme photos for social media that it can kill you. What we saw yesterday was a really tragic outcome of behavior that unfortunately we see too often. It not only puts you in harm's way, but it actually risks our lifesavers and our emergency services personnel who have to either try and rescue you or recover a body, and that’s what we’ve seen on Saturday."

Perhaps the most salient point in her quote above is that it's behavior we see far too often. Indeed, according to available statistics, 259 people lost their lives between 2011-2018, specifically in the act of taking selfies. Therefore, it's fair to say that number has probably exceeded 300 now. And this brings us to the crux of the issue: why?

Sure, we live in a narcissistic world where we crave dopamine hits from strangers on social media at ever-increasing rates. Nevertheless, thinking critically, what do people actually think they're going to get from these photos? If we think about the algorithms used on social media platforms such as Instagram, it's pretty common knowledge that your photos barely have a lifespan of a few hours, perhaps more if you're lucky. However, your images never reach all of your followers anyway. On a good day, I'm lucky if my photos I upload to Instagram reach 20% of the people who've elected to follow me. That means more than 80% of my followers never even see the images I upload anyway. So, why on earth would I put myself in danger of injury or death for an image that barely 15-20% of my followers will see? The answer? I don't, especially when I'm not getting paid for it, as I'm pretty sure is the case with most people who've died in the act of taking a selfie. 

If you look at the image above, you might surmise that I put myself unnecessarily close to the cliff face to get this shot. In reality, I was a good three meters from the edge, and there's another little step of rocks just below that edge anyway. In short, there was absolutely zero danger for me in this position. I went to this spot the day before and set up the composition to get the silhouette in a position that resembled being close, but I took all the necessary precautions to ensure I was in no danger. I'm a father to two young girls who I absolutely adore. Why would I risk that for a photo? This print sits proudly on my wall at home because it was a wonderfully fun exercise in planning and execution. Thus, I had intrinsic and extrinsic reasons to get this shot, but never at the risk of my life.

In the shot above, again, you might think I put myself perilously close to the water. However, what you can't see are the fishermen's spikes I wore to get to this rock, as I edited them out. Also, I grew up on the coast and have been swimming in oceans full of currents since I was five years old. Thus, if disaster struck and a wave somehow collected me and washed me into the water, I'd feel very comfortable in my ability to get back to shore. It didn't, though, because I'd checked what the tide was doing and had watched the water line for a good 30 minutes before taking up this position. It was slippery, but I had my boots nearby and ensured there were multiple entry points and exit points that weren't covered with razor-edged oyster shells. In short, I was never in any real danger, even if I did fall in.

This was an image for my mother at home in Australia, who has been to this location and stood very close to these rocks, albeit during a much lower tide and a much more calm day. Thus, I had more of a specific reason to get this shot beyond a simple desire to upload to Instagram and hope for a few more comments and likes than what I might usually (from my followers that Instagram actually shows the image to).

But if we come back to the unfortunate situations where people have died taking a selfie, I have to wonder what their actual reason is beyond a few likes on social media. I mean, in all my years working with clients, brands, and paying organizations, I've never once been asked to put myself into a position of danger for a licensed image. And if I was, I'd simply say no.

As sad as it is that we keep seeing people dying in avoidable circumstances all in the act of getting a photo, I wonder when people will realize that the cost/benefit analysis just makes no sense at all. I hope this will be a reminder or a wake-up call to people who risk their lives for a photo. It's never worth the risk, no matter how cool, daring, or shocking you might think it is.

What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

Iain Stanley's picture

Iain Stanley is an Associate Professor teaching photography and composition in Japan. Fstoppers is where he writes about photography, but he's also a 5x Top Writer on Medium, where he writes about his expat (mis)adventures in Japan and other things not related to photography. To view his writing, click the link above.

Log in or register to post comments

Darwinism.... same mindset as people who think sticking a firework in their arse and lighting it is ever gonna end well.

Wait ... that never ends well? Who knew?


20 year olds ignoring barriers for some instant gratification is one thing, but a mother with her children? Just why?

Im just a couple of years older than her and i know plenty of people my age who dont have any sense. I agree its completely ridiculous that someone with children would even put themselves in that situation.

That said, look at all those morons who go traipsing up Mount Everest every year, leaving families at home in the pursuit of the ultimate ego trip, people who have no right at all being anywhere near high altitude mountaineering, its just irresponsible in my opinion.

Just because she is (was) a mother doesn't automatically make her smarter (or smart enough to evaluate risks)

The absolute worst drivers I have ever encountered on the road are young mothers with those stupid ridiculous bobbing signs in the rear window proclaiming "baby on board" . . . and they are always trying to coddle , appease, amuse, talk, play with the little monster strapped in the baby seat . . .and not paying too much attention to the fact that they are "in control?????" (Hah!) of a ton and a half of a deadly projectile.

You should take a moment to research the comments on other posts similar to this one. You'll find someone always makes the same "Darwin" comment. (That and the, "stupid prizes for stupid games" comment). Your comment is tired and played out at this point. If you're going to take the time to make an unsympathetic comment when a person dies, at least take the time to write something original.

I have complete sympathy that someone has died, but lets get real here, someone played the game and paid the ultimate price, in a completely avoidable situation. Car crashes and freak accidents are tragic, doing this is is just plain stupid. Anyone with half a brain knows you dont disrespect water.

Those comments happen regularly because they are accurate. People stop playing dangerous ego games and the phrase could die off too.

Okay...then let's call it shear stupidity.

That is not Darwinism, not at all and not in any aspect. It is just cynical to tell it this way.
Here you go: Darwinism.... "stating that all species of organisms arise and develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the individual's ability to compete, survive, and reproduce." (

Yes and some of us seem to be 'less developed' than others, leading to these silly scenarios they put themselves in... variations that increase the individuals ability to survive. So in that respect, this is exactly what Darwinism is.

Yes and some of us seem to be 'less developed' than others, leading to these silly scenarios they put themselves in... variations that increase the individuals ability to survive. So in that respect, this is exactly what Darwinism is.

No, it is not!

Yes, it is

How is survival of the fittest - in any form in the modern world - not at play here?

I think one of the funniest, and most perceptive commentaries I ever heard was from a comedian (whose name I don't remember) doing a routine about "safety" warnings on packaging . . . in the routine he singled out an hemorrhoid cream, and the warning "not to be taken internally" . . . and his, and quite correct, observation was that they print that because someone was stupid enough to do exactly that.

Stupidity kills.

It's not just people taking selfies. Take a look at this story of a professional ultra runner who slipped right off a precarious trail and died! Why, what's the point of such risk?

It happened close to the place I grew up - in the mids of the highest Alps. Such tragic accidents happen once in a while. I don't think she took a greater risk. So many paths in the Alps are dangerous. You can fall just 3 feet and be dead if you hit a rock with your head. That happened to a former school friend of mine 25 years ago.

True, but some do take on more risk than they know they should. There's an interview that Scarpa did with Ueli Steck a number of years ago, where he even said the risks were getting to be too great, and he needed to back off. But another part of his brain just couldn't let him do that. And I still miss him. He was such a great inspiration for training and doing things outdoors in general, and I was looking forward to seeing him do other sports, like ultra marathons, as he got older.

The question is why? Hmm... have you heard of natural selection? :) Not to be insensitive here(but probably I am), but...that spot definitely looks decently safe IF you use common sense: watch your footing, watch for weather conditions(especially wind), look where you're stepping and when and only when everything is set, carefully and slowly take your phone out, take photo or a selfie without making any other movements. Then put the phone back in your pocket and walk away.

It’s definitely safe if you don’t climb over the barrier that’s installed....

Yes, we have heard of natural selection. Every single time a story like this appears on this blog multiple people make the same exact comment about "Darwin" and "natural selection". You aren't saying anything we haven't read here dozens of times.

And still, after "Darwin" comments, people continue to climb over the barriers.

And, for sure, there is someone in "Darwin" comment blaming others for insensitivity and unoriginality.

History repeating.

And apparently you make the same comment back to them many of them. Your not liking those comments and trying to shame them isn't going to make them go away.

Folks are so self obsessed

Just be somewhere and enjoy it, you don't need to publicise it. Likes don't help you enjoy where you are

The Social Dilemma should be mandatory viewing at least once a week for all people under 50. And over...

Nobody thinks they're going to be the next one to lose their footing and fall. Everyone thinks they're going to get away with taking that extra bit of risk, until they don't. Just like the photojournalist in a war zone thinks that they won't be unlucky enough to get hit by a stray bullet, and the mountaineer thinks that they won't be one of the ones unlucky enough to get caught in a freak storm. Different scenarios, of course, but the same unwillingness to admit one's vulnerability.

Yeah but the photojournalist is getting paid and always thinks his/her shot is going to be on the cover of Time Magazine. What’s going through the head of a mother, who was with her children at the time? Beggars belief you’d take that risk, and send the message to your kids that jumping over barriers for a risky photo is fine....

Are you really asking this seriously?

People take risks. Sometimes they don't think through the consequences. Millions of people do this millions of times a day all around the world. Almost all of the time nothing happens. You jump over a fence, take a photo, and everything is fine. You've got a fairly big platform here. I don't think using that platform to express your incredulity at a mum who isn't here to defend herself is the best use of that platform to be honest.

I'm sorry that you think this dead mum wasn't a "good enough role model" for her kids. But we've all heard stories of people who thought they "knew better", who due to "their experience feel very comfortable in their ability" to be able to defy the odds. But you are just one wave and one rock away from ending up in the very same place as you lament. If you really can't understand "what was going through the head of the mother" then can I suggest you look at your own over-inflated sense of your ability to withstand the odds and start there.

I have to agree. We all calculate risk and rationalize our decisions. The only certainty I have on this story is that it was a tragic accident. I don't like the crossing of the barrier, it does always seem to be an act of selfishness, but we are all selfish and hypocritical in our own way.

So if we are just here to scorn selfies then the point was click bait as I'm sure a site full of photographers has the same general opinion on the matter.

Now excuse me as I prep gear to climb a mountain in inclement winter weather carrying largely camera related toys.

So sad. R.I.P.

Anything fo the 'gram.

I'm sure the author was relatively safe in that last photo but if a wave swept him in at that spot, he could have easily bashed himself unconscious as well as being battered while being swept out. It only takes a few feet falling and hitting your head on a rock and be killed.

"Another Person Dies Taking a Selfie: The Question Is Why?"
Answer; Stupidity.
It is that simple.

I'm still stunned by the number of people who insist on shooting photos of....themselves. I just don't get it. There are so many nice things to shoot. I can't imagine people wanting a shot of the person doing the shooting.

In the alienated loneliness of the [post] modern world our predecessors have unwittingly created for us, the desperate need for human contact deludes many people into believing that followers are friends who must be held onto at all costs.

All very true if you’re a socially isolated teen or twenty-something. But it baffles me why a middle-aged woman would climb a barrier, in front of her children, to get “the shot”....

Never risk my or your life for a image. This is stupid and not worth.

Yep...Dying for art is different from dying for Instagram likes :D

The reward of having taken something noone else have achieved and social recognition allures people to make crazy decisions. It's the same adrenaline that makes people climb mountains, goto moon, etc...

Each according to their own ability (for eg, I won't be climbing untouched peaks, but, if it's something like discovering some forbidden trial close to my place is very much doable).

Of course, the ones who die climbing gets appreciated for their bravery from the population which had declared to themselves it's something cannot be done. Hence, when someone else die trying something crazy with no large social reward such as mountaineering, gets the name calling.

Family of the mountaineers gets to say that their father was brave in pursuing something impossible.

The thing that is particularly dumb about these is it really doesn't take much skill to composite the shot. It really is all about ego. I wonder how many of the survivors of this stupidity then go on to replace the sky.

I believe there is an underlying mental health concern in people obsessed to get the perfect selfie or chasing the "likes" on social media. It's important for them to portray a certain image to the world to hide what's really inside and social media helps amplify this. That's why they are willing to take huge risks despite having a family. Don't get me wrong, we are all at some point willing to take some risks to get the shot we want, albeit calculated risks. But for others that take risks beyond comprehension, that is just tip of the ice berg.

I believe there is an underlying mental health concern in people obsessed to get the perfect selfie or chasing the "likes" on social media. It's important for them to portray a certain image to the world to hide what's really inside and social media helps amplify this. That's why they are willing to take huge risks despite having a family. Don't get me wrong, we are all at some point willing to take some risks to get the shot we want, albeit calculated risks. But for others that take risks beyond comprehension, that is just tip of the ice berg.

The world is a safe place - Social media says so.

I see dozens of photographs every week of people standing or sitting on cliff tops or overhangs looking out at an amazing view, with no mention of the dangers or risks. I see a number of online videos showing people having great adventures, cycling or hiking in far away places, being fed and accommodated by the strangers they meet along the way. No one gets robbed (or worse), and the accidents we are shown are often treated with a band aid, applied by someone who is laughing like a fool because of the 'ridiculous crash'.
When these adventures turn turn into a real disaster, the material rarely reaches the social media platforms. You have to look to real news platforms to find a lot of them. As I write this, an English woman is missing in the Pyrenees mountains, she was travelling on her own and never returned from a hike. I was not aware of this story until a colleague mentioned it.

We are influenced by what we see, and in the world of social media , it is Influencers having fun, seemingly risk free adventures that beg to be copied.

If you click on the link "reports" in the text above and scroll down you'll find a still from a video of a Top Moron Awardee doing a back flip at the same location.

"deliberately climbed over", "family witnessed" . . . glad that she is dead, the world is a better place.

Stop coddling stupidity. It kills more people every minute of every year . . . more than cancer, HIV, covid, heart disease combined.

Want it to stop? Forget the pathetic sympathy, and tell the truth . . . she was stupid, she deserved to die . . . the world is a better place (if she didn't die this time, she would have kept on being stupid until she probably killed/maimed someone who was important to you). Tell everyone often enough and finally one of these self absorbed assholes might finally pause and say "maybe I shouldn't do that" . . . the first step out of a pathetic disease called stupidity.

In the meantime . . . more and more restrictions . . . because of stupid people, who quite frankly, we would have been better off if they were never born.

Stupidity kills. Period.

Stupid? As in posting stupid comments such as yours?