A Timeless Self-Portrait | The “Selfie”

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In 2013, the word “selfie” was officially added to the Oxford Dictionary along with “binge-watch” and “twerk”, and lives were forever changed. Well, we might be exaggerating a little, but our early-2000’s selves were very pleased that there was officially a word to label that weird arm maneuver we did to avoid getting our elbow in the frame with our puckered duck faces.

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What we failed to realize however in 2013, is that the selfie has been around for ages, we’ve just failed to call out the OG selfie taker of 1839: Robert Cornelius! This particular genius, set up his camera, ran into the frame, then replaced the lens cap. Just as we write cute captions under polaroid pictures, he wrote “The First Light Picture Ever Taken. 1839” on the back of the portrait. For this, we thank you, Sir Cornelius! We’re also sure the Kardashians, America’s most notorious selfie taking family, are very appreciative of his efforts as well.

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Before Robert Cornelius and the invention of the camera, painters captured self-portraits. This process could take upwards of 10 hours depending on the size of the canvas. Can you imagine doing anything besides sleeping for 10 hours?! The painters of this time deserve a round of applause for keeping such a steady hand for so long, especially artists such as Hans Holbein as we’re sure a steady hand was hard to keep around King Henry VIII.

Aside from the king’s horribly tragic reign in the 1500’s (disclaimer: horribly tragic for everyone but himself), he had incredibly detailed portraits painted to portray himself in a certain light, as a strong, powerful king, a warrior who won the crown of England. We can only imagine what his headshot for his Linkedin profile would look like!

Over time, portraits went from being only for those deemed worthy of having a picture of their face, to those rich enough to have a picture of their face, eventually to the everyday man and woman who wanted a picture of their face. In the mid 19th century, with the help of the Industrial Revolution, portraits became less about patronage and more about mass production. More and more people had access to painting supplies, and more and more people had access to the art of portraiture!

Though we do fancy a painted selfie, we’d like to give a shout out to our man Joseph Nicéphore Niépce for inventing the heliograph in 1822, which is what we know today as a photograph! Without his neat invention, the Fox Fam wouldn’t exist. Can you imagine such a world?!

Now that we’ve got a full understanding of how self-portraits have changed throughout the years, we’d like to say that the selfie we’ve all come to love and adore (because who doesn’t love themselves?) is really just another change on a long-standing tradition. With the big boom of social media, specifically sites such as MySpace, Facebook, and Instagram, as well as the creation of the front facing camera (thanks, Apple), it’s SO unbelievably easy to take a selfie and share it with the world, so why not?!

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From the Hip Photo

From the Hip Photo is Colorado’s best photography team. Based in Denver, they photograph assignments across the country and the globe for individuals, couples, families, businesses, and non-profits. Their photo adventures have taken them to Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Russia, among other spots.

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