Not long after the invention of photography came the first selfie. It’s #TravelTuesday and I, Dave Williams, am here as always with something from the world of travel, photography, and life. Today – selfies!
The person who first sat for a selfie was Robert Cornelius who, in 1839 in Philadelphia, sat for a little over a minute in front of his camera to capture the self-portrait that followed suit of so many painters before him. So many photographers have continued this self-portraiture tradition since the painters and our faces and bodies hold incredible storytelling ability, so it makes sense to do this.
It can be surprising how many photographers are reluctant to turn the lens on themselves, knowing that some of the world’s most famous photographers specialise in self-portraiture. If you’d like inspiration, look no further than Gilmar Smith, who takes amazing portraits and self-portraits alike.
Exactly what is it about turning the lens on themselves that stimulates photographers? For many famous self-portrait photographers, their body is a canvas on which they can layer ideas and delve into their inner psyche. For others, it can be a commentary on society. This genre of photography can also be a visual expression of inner emotions or even a photographic diary. In this age of the selfie, it’s easy to think “isn’t a self-portrait the same thing as a selfie?” Not exactly. A self-portrait is more considered than an off-the-cuff snap of the situation.
Using yourself as your own model doesn’t necessarily mean a seated portrait, but is more an excuse to experiment with poses, costumes, and artistry with the only model you’ll ever have who won’t complain—yourself.
What a self-portrait does for us, whether staged, environmental, or in action, is that it serves as a reminder to us of the activity, the emotion, and the situation we were in at the time we took it. It’s a reminder, as well as a piece of art, and with that little piece of enlightenment and explanation, I hope those who have never taken a self-portrait will give it a go.