Setting the record straight on selfies

Figure 1 - The world's first selfie, a daguerreotype by taken 1839.  In the Library of Congress, from the Wikipedia, and  and in the public domain.

Figure 1 – The world’s first selfie, a daguerreotype by taken by Robert Cornellius in 1839. In the Library of Congress, from the Wikipedia, and and in the public domain.

Yesterday the TV networks and internet were all above about former United States Secretary of State Colin Powell’s sixty year old selfie.  Did Colin Powell invent the selfie as kinda implied by some new media. Well not so much!  Significantly, Powell does not claim to have invented the selfie, anymore than Vice President Al Gore ever said that he invented the internet.  Still it’s worth setting the record straight. Readers of this blog are already aware that throughout the history of photography this mirror type selfie has been a common trick – witness our discussion of Vivian Maier, whose self-portraits were contemporary with Sec. Powell’s. Hers were also taken in the mirror.

Figure 1 - 1865 "rotating" self portrait by Nadar, from the Wikipedia, in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, and in the public domain because of its age.

Figure 1 – 1865 “rotating” self portrait by Nadar, from the Wikipedia, in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, and in the public domain because of its age.

What is widely considered to be the world’s first photographic selfie, remember that the self-portrait has been a time honored form in portraiture, was a daguerreotype was taken in November or December of 1839 by Robert Cornelius.  This is shown in Figure 1.  Perhaps, more interesting is Figure 2, which shows an animation of the 1865 “revolving” self-portrait by the great nineteenth century French photographer Nadar, of balloon over the French village of Petit-Becetre fame..

It’s not true that no idea is original it’s just that we are off here by 120 years!

This entry was posted in History of Photography.