UBC student’s “elphie” goes viral

From bathroom mirrors to the Academy Awards, selfies have taken over the world. UBC grad Christian LeBlanc has made the next step in the evolution of the selfie -- an elephant’s selfie, or “elphie,” that has been shared thousands of times worldwide.

The elphie took place when LeBlanc, then a Sauder student, was on a Go Global exchange to Thailand. “[An elephant] grabbed my GoPro by the mount and I got the selfie of a lifetime,” said LeBlanc. “The elephant was clearly very nosy."

Now, his lucky vacation photo has turned into an internet phenomenon.

“I can see why celebrities have managers,” LeBlanc said, looking to his ever-growing inbox. Over 150 publications have shared the tale of the elphie. The elphie’s fame, however, is not yet at the point that people are recognizing LeBlanc and his trusty GoPole -- a selfie stick for the GoPro -- as he travels through Asia. “Although I've been asked for photos, it's likely because I'm a foreigner.”

Out of all the interesting photos taken around the world every year, what makes the elphie so special? LeBlanc explained: “I think it went viral because people love a story they can laugh at and feel good about." This is perhaps LeBlanc’s raison d’être for taking photos. “I love selfies that tell a story (not including bathroom selfies)."

Since the elphie, LeBlanc has continued to tell stories through his photography, snapping a whale shark and an adorable tarsier. Earlier this week in the Philippines, he went swimming with sea turtles in the hopes of getting a “turtlie.”

LeBlanc’s dream is to share the story of the elphie with an audience of millions on Ellen, of which the titular host is arguably the queen of selfies, whose own at the Oscars was the most retweeted image in 2014. “I already had an elephant take a selfie with me so maybe it's not such a stretch [...] #elphieonellen is going!" he said.

Currently in the Philippines, LeBlanc has plans to share more stories with selfies in Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Japan. It'll take skill, blind luck or a combination before most photographers snap an image as popular as LeBlanc's, but in the meantime, he left his photography mantra to share with amateur selfie-takers: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” (Wayne Gretzky).

See more of LeBlanc's photography on his Instagram.