Selfies are not so modern as they might appear to be. People have been taking selfies for centuries. But at that time, they were referred to as ‘self-portraits.’ These artistic self-portraits first started with paintings and then moved on to being taken by the first cameras. We bring to you 10 of the oldest selfies of all times that are taken with cameras. These selfies play a significant role in helping us understand how the photography world has developed over the years.
1. A self-portrait taken by Robert Cornelius in 1839 has been officially declared as the world’s oldest selfie. The words “the first light picture ever taken” were written on the back of his photo.
Robert Cornelius is a pioneer in the history of American photography. His parents were immigrants from Amsterdam and his father was a silversmith who later opened a lamp manufacturing company. When Cornelius finished school, he started working for his father. He became an expert in silver plating and metal polishing. His work became so famous that when the daguerreotype, the first ever photography process, was invented, he was approached by Joseph Saxton. Saxton, an American inventor and photographer, wanted him to create a silver plate for his daguerreotype. This sparked an interest in photography in Cornelius.
Cornelius had a keen interest in chemistry while he was at school, so, he combined his chemistry knowledge with the metallurgy experience and worked towards improving the daguerreotype. At the age of 30, he took a self-portrait outside their family shop. The year was 1839, and this image was the first ever self-portrait. Cornelius had to sit motionless for about 10-15 minutes for the imprint to take place on the exposure. (source)
2. Hippolyte Bayard’s self-portraits were well-known in the 1840s. He created his first staged photograph entitled “Self Portrait as a Drowned Man” in 1840 as a response to the injustice subjected to him when he was persuaded by a friend to not declare his photography technique costing him the recognition as one of the principal inventors of photography.
Hippolyte Bayard is another pioneer in the history of photography. He was a French photographer and invented his own technique to take print photographs. His method consisted of the production of direct positive paper prints in the camera itself. On June 24, 1839, he became the first person to hold a public photography exhibition. He also claims to have invented photography before Louis-Jacques Mandé Daguerre of France and Englishman William Henry Fox Talbot, the two men who are hailed as the inventors of photography.
Bayard’s photo-developing method involved exposing silver chloride paper to light. This turned the paper to black. The black paper was then soaked in potassium iodide before being exposed in a camera. After the exposure, it was washed in a solution of hyposulfite of soda and left to dry.
Bayard wanted to take his technique to the French Academy of Sciences, but he was persuaded by François Arago, a friend of Louis Daguerre the inventor of the daguerreotype process, to postpone it. Because of the delay, Bayard lost his chance to be recognized as one of the principal photography inventors. In response to this injustice to which he was subjected, he created his masterpiece “Self Portrait as a Drowned Man” in 1840. (source)
3. Jean-Gabriel Eynard was one of the first Swiss people to use the daguerreotype photography technique. He created numerous self-portraits in the 1840s making him one of the pioneers of the modern-day selfie.
Jean-Gabriel Eynard was one of the first enthusiasts of the daguerreotype method of photography. He started using the daguerreotype in 1839. This made him one of the first people in Switzerland to use this method of photography. He kept his passion alive until he breathed his last in 1863.
The pictures above are a few of his self-portraits. (source)
4. Henri-Jacques-Edouard Evenepoel was a Belgian artist whose self-portrait using a mirror dates back to 1897-1898.
Henri-Jacques-Edouard Evenepoel was an artist from Belgian, well known for his artworks related to Fauvism. Fauvism refers to the painting style of a group of modern artists of the 20th century. These particular group of artists emphasized vibrant and colorful artistic styles as opposed to the representational or realistic styles prevalent at that time.
But this Belgian painter was not just constrained to paintings. Evenepoel experimented with camera selfies and seriously considered them as a form of artistic expression. The picture above is a selfie Evenepoel took around 1897-1898. (1, 2)
5. Hannah Maynard used an exposure trick in photography to give the impression that there are many of her in her self-portraits. These multiple-exposure self-portraits were created by her around 1893.
Hannah Maynard was active in the late 1800s, primarily around 1893. She was the first official photographer for the Victoria Police Department. She is famous for the eccentric self-portraits that depicted multiples of her in the same self-portrait. Like in the above photograph, there are five of her in the same frame! The trick is the utilization of multiple exposures. Maynard seemed to have exceeded the abilities of the cameras available during that time.
In the above photograph, two of her are depicted, dressed in identical Victorian clothing and having tea. Also, there seems to be a painting of her too on the wall, pouring tea over one of the seated Hannahs. Seems she had a mischievous side apart from her brilliant knowledge on multiple exposures! (1, 2)