Check your hair, find your light, and strike a post — National Selfie Day is June 21. Time to find the perfect angle, try out that new filter, and freshen up your socials! If you’re feeling yourself, you’re wearing a new favorite outfit, or even if you’re just bored, it’s time to pull out that camera phone and proclaim, “But first, let me take a selfie.”
Self portraiture is as timeless as art itself. Since the invention of the film camera in 1885, humans have been drawn to the allure of their own image in tangible form. The introduction of digital photography into the mainstream boosted the trend of self portrait work from the 1990s well into the early 2000s, as the instantaneous nature of picture development made it a more affordable and accessible way to photograph than earlier film photography. By the time the camera phone, digital cameras, and social media converged around 2005, “selfie” wasn’t just a new word in our lexicon, but a full blown world phenomenon.
The first selfie is widely credited to Robert Cornelius, an American chemist and founding father of photography. Cornelius had to sit still for 10-15 minutes to create the first intentional self portrait using the daguerreotype method of photography in 1839. The selfie game has evolved as quickly as the technology of photography itself, with many artists establishing and redefining the genre of self portraiture over the last 181 years. From lesser known, yet wildly talented artists like Vivian Maier to pop culture icons like Andy Warhol, following the roots of the modern day selfie is to go on an epic journey of world history.
But it wasn’t until the early 2000s that photography, and consequently, the selfie was available en masse to the public with the introduction of the first cell phone camera. Since then, the selfie has changed rapidly becoming both a casual means of communication and a perfected art form. Selfies have helped launch people’s careers in every field from entertainment and art to marketing and business.