Remember the pre-selfie time a few years ago? The time when you asked someone else to make a picture of you with a good old (digital) camera. Or…the time when you used the self-timer button for delayed action shutter release to create those very professional and spontaneous pictures that still make you proud. “No this picture was not made by a professional. Shutter buttons for life.” The shutter release button time is still going strong, because why wait for someone else to make a picture, when your shutter release button skills are still going strong.
From the pre-selfie time back to the past, where pictures weren’t just one click away. Back to the past, where pictures were made with just a camera. Smartphones & selfie sticks were nowhere to be found. However, selfies are older and were more common than you might think. Traces of self portraits go way back to the mid-19th century, when photography became more and more affordable.
1839: The first self portrait ever
In 1839, chemist Robert Cornelius made the first self portrait ever (see picture above this blogpost), which is also seen as one of the first photographs of a person. Robert Cornelius was a pioneer when it comes to photography. This picture was created at a store in Philadelphia. Robert set up his camera at the back of the store. He removed the lenscap of his camera and ran into frame, where he sat very still for one minute. After that he covered up the lens again. Ofcourse this was just the beginning. The film had to be processed with chemicals and dried, before he could see the result. His famous self portrait was created by using a photography process called daguerreotype. Three worlds apart from your present userfriendly instagram filters…The daguerreotype was one of the first commonly used photographic processes back in the first days of “modern” photography (ca. 1830s). And ofcourse only accessible if you could afford it. It gave your picture a very unique vintage and antique look before it was cool. One thing is for sure, patience and time were essential in those days!
Nowadays a picture and self portrait is just one click away. Remember that time when you accidentally pressed the camera button on your smartphone and made a picture of the wall, the floor or something that still needs to be defined? Well, back in the days, self portraits were often made to check how a picture would turn out or by accident when photographers were experimenting with their cameras. In other words: self portraits were very common and useful.
Self portrait of an unknown woman | ca. 1900
Self portrait of Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna. It was created by using a mirror and the (then-popular) Kodak Brownie box camera | 1914
Origin of the word selfie
So, where did the word “selfie” come from? Well, it was apparently invented by a guy from Australia, in 2002. He went out for a birthday bash and had a little accident. He posted a picture on a forum (so 2002!), with stitches in his lower lip and described this picture as a “selfie”. It took a few years, but in 2012 almost everyone was aware of the term selfie. The rest is ofcourse history. Nowadays the selfie hype is still going strong. What’s social media life without selfies? I just checked instagram and at the moment there are 299,561,639 (yes, this is the exact number) pictures out there with hashtag selfie. And yes, I’ve also used that hashtag a lot…
Personal selfie is my own. All historical pictures via Wiki Commons