The History & Evolution Of The Selfie

Whether it’s a night out with the girls, a family vacation, or just some great lighting, any excuse to take a selfie is a good one. 

Selfies have become a part of our daily lives, so much so that Kim Kardashian published an entire book filled with her selfies. An Australian man coined the term ‘selfie’ after taking a photograph of himself to ask for advice in 2002. 

As much as some might think that selfies are a 21st-century trend, selfies have been around as long as cameras have. 

The First Selfie

Getty Images

When light photography was first invented in 1839, an amateur photographer named Robert Cornelius went through a rigorous procedure of running in front of the lens, posing for three to five minutes, and then running back to replace the lens cap. 

His caption, which was written on the back of the printed photograph, was, “The first light picture ever taken, 1839”. Less eye-catching than modern captions, but then again, he didn’t have 900 Instagram followers to impress. 

The First Mirror Selfie 

Boissonnas et Eggler, St. Petersburg, Nevsky 24. – Bain News Service, publisher., Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna Crisco edit letters removed, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons

Seventy-five years after the first selfie was taken, Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia invented the mirror selfie. The duchess took a photograph of herself in the mirror and sent it to a friend. 

The duchess was a teenager at the time, which proves that teens in any era have an affinity for photographing themselves to share with their friends. Maybe the duchess had a group mailing system to send the photograph to in place of the group text chains we know today. 

Armed Selfies 

Getty Images

It’s 2006, and you’re in the club with your besties, dancing to Usher and trying to keep all fifty of your bracelets on your wrist. Somebody pulls out their digital camera, and you all huddle behind its lens while the owner extends the camera to arm’s length and snaps a photo. 

The first people to do this were men in 1920 who were photographers for Byron Company. Two of the men had to hold the camera up because it was so heavy. 

This trend carried over into the ‘70s when people were able to hold their polaroid cameras on their own and snap photos from arm’s length away. Digital cameras came after that, and the popularity of the selfie grew. 


Getty Images

The first camera phone to be released in 2003. Camera phones made it so much easier to snap photos at any time and place because you always had your cell phone with you. 

Even if you had left your camera at home, you would be able to take selfies. There was a wave of camera phone popularity following the first one in 2003, and soon you couldn’t get a phone without a camera in it, but then Apple revolutionized the camera phone. 

In 2010 Apple released a phone with a front-facing camera. You could watch yourself take a photo of yourself! This sparked a new wave of apps on the smartphone to edit the photos you had taken. 

Today, every photo you see has most likely been taken on a smartphone and edited with the myriad of apps available to us. There’s no doubt that the selfie trend will only grow from here, and it’s exciting to think what new inventions might arise out of it. 

Recommended Posts