As I’ve said elsewhere, I love photography. As a young boy, I was given my first camera and my journey began. I wanted to learn as much as I could about photography so I went to my favorite source for information. The library, specifically encyclopedia’s.
The Worlds First Selfie?
Today, we all take the humble selfie for granted, but have you ever wondered, as I do, who took the first selfie? If you search online for this, you might likely find that credit goes to Robert Cornelius. Cornelius was an American pioneer in photography and his self portrait circa 1839 is considered to be the first photographic portrait, and can be thought of to be the first ever selfie.
Ok, I’ll grant you, the Cornelius photo is considered as the first photographic self portrait, but was it really the first selfie? I guess it depends on your point of view. All through history there have been so many artists ranging from the greatest ever to the unknown artists who never really made it big, but were great none the less.
Does this name ring a bell? Harmenszoon van Rijn Rembrandt. He is also remembered classically as Rembrandt. Rembrandt was born in 1603 and died in October 1669. He was considered to be one of the greatest visual artists in the history of art, his self portrait at the age of 63 was finished just prior to his death.
So, I pondered, was this the real first self portrait? Not likely. Going back through the ages, I am sure if you dig deep enough you will undoubtedly find other examples from known and unknown artists. I still wanted to know about the first selfie, or at least what could be seen as the first selfie.
Camera’s, The Beginning?
Today we have many different types of camera’s ranging from the cell phone camera, to SLR’s and DSLR’s, to point and shoot. There are film cameras which are still preferred by many photography enthusiasts and professionals. But where did this fascination with capturing pictures come from? It comes from inside of each and every one of us. Our desire to preserve a moment in time. But, are camera’s the beginning?
No, a camera is simply a tool by which we can capture and preserve these moments that are precious to us. or those moments which may have historical value. It’s the human need and desire to keep alive these memories that were the basic driver of the invention and refinement of the camera.
The 1800s was a magical time in photography, new inventions, new processes coming at almost breakneck speeds when compared to the evolution of the artistic mediums which came before. There was the Daguerreotype process developed in 1835 by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre. This process is considered to be the first ever genuine method of producing photographs.
Going back further in time, past the Rembrandt’s and other famous artists of the Renaissance, we can find many examples of ancient art such as what you find in Egypt and other places around the world. But of all of these ancient works, can any of them be thought of as selfies? I think not.
If we go back far enough in time, we come to our prehistoric ancestors. These were a people at the beginning of development. Man moved indoors, so to speak. They took shelter in caves and built their clans as they grew in numbers and knowledge. As early humans evolved, we might wonder if they were also capable of expressing the world around them. The answer is, evidently they did. Cave painting from around the world, some dating to an estimated 30,000BC to 28,000BC. Scientists and archaeologists have discovered cave-art created by using ocher and other pigments to depict scenes and events of the times. It is assumed that our ancestors wanted to leave a record, possibly more for the education of the younger generations. There is also evidence of hand painting early adornments which can be looked at as the jewelry and fashion of the day.
And then there are the hand stencils found among the other paintings of animals or a hunt. It’s almost as if our ancestors wanted to leave a record of themselves, a signature perhaps. These images are hauntingly beautiful and a marker or a means of saying, “Hey, I was here”.
In this writer’s opinion, this cave-art, these hand stencils are, given the medium of the day, the very first and original form of selfie. I might not be able to see the face belonging to the hand stencil, but I see a selfie none the less. I see a person who left his mark on his world for all to see. He could share his selfie with his family or anyone else who might happen along. I see the signature of a person who lived eons ago. This cave-art is humbling to me and even more humbling are the hand stencils. I look at these millennia old selfies and think to myself, are we really so sophisticated. Our technology is sophisticated for sure, but our thoughts haven’t really changed so much over the eons. We still desire to capture moments in time to share with whichever audience we desire, and audiences that may come in the future.
I look forward to you comments and encourage any and all discussion on this topic. Thank you for your time and consideration.