English: The first photographic portrait image of a human ever produced. “Robert Cornelius, head-and-shoulders [self-]portrait, facing front, with arms crossed”, approximate quarter plate daguerreotype, 1839 or Nov.. LC-USZC4-5001 DLC Also see: Library of Congress, American Memory, complete source description. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Selfies came to prominence in the early 2010’s when improvements in design – especially the addition of front-facing cameras – started to appear in Smartphones.
Therefore it was no surprise that in 2013 Oxford Dictionaries announced that selfie, meaning a type of self-portrait photograph, had been chosen as the word of the year.
Even further back Robert Cornelius, an American pioneer in photography, produced a daguerreotype of himself, in 1839, which was also one of the first photographs of a person. Because the process was slow he was able to uncover the lens, run into shot for a minute or more, and then replace the lens cap. He recorded on the back “The first light Picture ever taken. 1839
Selfie as a word seems to originate on September 13th 2002 in an Australian Internet Forum – ABC Online
Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped ofer [sic] and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie
The debut of the portable Kodak Brownie box camera in 1900 led to photographic self-portraiture becoming a more widespread technique. The method was usually by mirror and stabilizing the camera either on a nearby object or on a tripod while framing via a viewfinder at the top of the box.
Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna at the age of 13 was one of the first teenagers to take her own picture using a mirror to send to a friend in 1914. In the letter that accompanied the photograph, she wrote,
“I took this picture of myself looking at the mirror. It was very hard as my hands were trembling.”
Now to my selfie – I’m not a great one for self-portraits. I prefer to be behind the camera not in front. Annie Leibovitz was once asked by Ingrid Sischv “Did she ever think about doing a self-portrait”? Her response sort of sums up my feelings about self-portraits or selfies….
I think self-portraits are very difficult. I’ve always seen mine as straightforward, very stripped down, hair pulled back. No shirt. Whatever light happened to be available. I’d want it to be very graphic – about darkness and light. No one else should be there, but I’m scared to do it by myself. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. The whole idea of a self-portrait is strange. I’m so strongly linked to how I see through the camera that to get to the other side of it would be difficult. It would be as if I were taking a photograph in the dark
So finally, here’s my selfie
That’s me, it’s graphic, about dark and light. I’m on my own on the beach using the last light of the setting sun. It was mid-winter so too darn cold to strip my shirt off and unlike Annie I don’t have any hair to pull back. But I think I’ve managed to achieve the essence of a self portrait as described by Annie. What do you think?