10 of the Oldest Selfies Known To Man –


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.

World’s oldest selfie by Robert Cornelius (1839). Image Credit: Wikipedia

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.

Self-Portrait as a Drowned Man by Hippolyte Bayard (1840). Image Credit: Wikipedia

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’s self-portraits dating back to 1847 (left), 1851 (middle), and 1853 (right). Image Credit: Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Wikipedia

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 Evenepoel, the Belgian painter taking a selfie in 1898. Image Credit: New York Post

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.  (12)

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.

Five shots of Hannah Maynard in one frame using multiple exposures (1893). Image Credit: Wikipedia

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.

Hannah Maynard’s self-portrait with three of her in it captured using multiple exposures. Image Credit: Wikipedia

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! (12)

6. This unidentified woman’s “mirror selfie” was attributed to be taken in 1900. She used a box camera to take the selfie. This photo was scanned from the original 4×5 inch glass negative.

Unidentified woman taking a mirror selfie using a Kodak box camera dating back to 1900. Image Credit: Wikipedia

This mirror selfie does not feel like it’s been taken in 1900. After all, isn’t a mirror selfie a recent and hip thing? Well, history says otherwise. Although there seems to be no record of who this woman is in the photograph, her mirror selfie is one of the most significant historical photographs.

She is seen using a Kodak Brownie camera to take the mirror selfie. This line of box cameras was first launched in 1900. They were sold for the price of one dollar when they hit the market. The design was simple – point and shoot. This was a stepping stone in the history of photography as it made photography available to the masses.

The woman in the photo must have been a photography enthusiast considering that the shelf to the right is stacked with numerous photos. (source)

7. Harold Cazneaux, an Australian photographer, is known to have created some of the most memorable images of the 20th-century. He was a master of self-portraits too.

Self-portrait of Harold Cazneaux (1904). Image Credit: Art Gallery NSW

Harold Cazneaux was a pioneer in the history of Australian photography. He studied at the School of Design, Painting and Technical Arts and worked at Freeman & Co., one of Sydney’s oldest photography studios. He was the first man to organize a one-man exhibition in Australia in 1909.

The picture above was taken by the photographer in 1904. This might not look like a conventional self-portrait since it is being shot outdoors. In the photo, it is quite evident that Cazneaux is staring dead ahead at his own reflection. In one hand, he is holding a standard box camera, prevalent during that time, and a shutter release cable on the other hand to click the image. Below are a few more of his self-portraits clicked in the subsequent years.

Harold Cazneaux’s self-portraits taken in 1910 (left) and 1937 (right). Image Credit: New York Post, National Portrait Gallery


8. Joseph Byron was a British photographer. His selfie dates back to the 1900s.

Joseph Byron’s self-portrait that dates back to 1910-1920. Image Credit: Wikipedia

An English photographer, Joseph Byron, is also the founder of the Byron Company established in 1892. The Byron Company operates as a New York City photography studio. The son of the founder, Percy Byron, is known in history as “the premier maritime photographer of his generation.”

Although Joseph Byron was more keen on photographing Broadway shows and stage productions, he also experimented with self-portraits. The one above was taken by him between 1910 and 1915. (12)

9. Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna in 1914 took a photographic self-portrait using a mirror and Kodak Brownie box camera. She must have been the first teen to take a selfie!

Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna mirror-selfies. On the right, she is with her sister Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna. (1914 and 1915) Image Credit: Wikipedia, Facebook

Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna was the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. We all know the fate of the Tsar’s family. The Grand Duchess had the same fate.

When she was young, Anastasia was quite cheerful and energetic. She was the youngest of the four duchesses and the elder sister to Alexei Nikolaevich, the youngest child and only son of the Tsar. Margaretta Eagar who used to be the governess to the four sisters said that Anastasia was described by people as having the greatest personal charm of any child.

The Duchess was quite friendly with her camera. There are numerous photographs of her and her sisters either making faces at the camera or taking mirror selfies. In the above picture, the Duchess is seen self-photographing herself with the help of a mirror and a Kodak Brownie box camera. The photo was taken on October 1914.

The keen young Duchess used to put her photos in a scrapbook. Her pictures helped the world know a lot about the Tsar’s family later. (source)

10. This is a photograph probably taken between 1913 and 1918. The photo was taken by a crewman of the German DFW C.V aircraft, the one in the picture, with the help of a camera attached to the wing strut.

A crewman of a German DFW C.V aircraft takes a picture with a camera attached to a wing strut during World War I. (1913-1918) Image Credit: Wikipedia

It is not specifically known when this photo was taken or by whom. The only available details are the ones that are in the picture itself. The photo shows a DFW C.V (Aviatik) aircraft high up in the air. The Aviatik trademark, a German aircraft manufacturer during World War I, can be seen on the strut. This places the origin of the image between 1913-1918.

One of the crewmen must have attached the camera on the wing strut to take this daredevil selfie. (source)

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