The First Ever Selfie

September 11, 2018

My morning dip-thinking has been a bit scattered lately. Yesterday, the subject of selfies came upon me during my rinse cycle. A few weeks ago at the wedding of one of our granddaughters, I confessed to a lovely young lady sitting next to me that I’d never taken a selfie. So there in the middle of the reception, she showed me how to do it—and then she snapped one. I was surprised at how easy it was.

Isabelle and Dad edit 2

But I had not quite told her the truth. A few weeks later I remembered having taken a couple of selfies many, many years ago, and I thought to myself, “Hmmm, maybe I was the first person in the world to photograph himself. And perhaps I could claim the fame (or the shame), of starting this new fad.” More on that later.

Then I recalled the story of Vincent Van Gogh. He is my favorite artist, and while they’re not photos, he painted some self-portraits back in the late 1800s. Today, some of his paintings sell for more than 100 million dollars! Sadly, during his lifetime, he only sold one his works of art; and that one went for a measly 400 francs, just a few months before he died.

Van Gough resize

True, it was a painting, rather than a photo of himself, and though he was somewhat mentally wobbly, he’s still the first one that I knew of, to come up with the selfie idea. (If you think I’m suggesting that you have to be a little unstable in order to paint or photograph yourself . . . hmmm . . . I don’t think I’d go quite that far in trying to explain the current ubiquitous, unusual and enormously popular preoccupation with ourselves.)


Okay, enough preaching, let’s get back to my own ancient history. I humbly present the first selfie photo ever taken, snapped on a Vivitar slide camera in 1958, using Kodachrome film at 35,000 feet above sea level. Notice the steely and focused gaze of the SHP—‘Super Hot Pilot.’ Well, that’s a fairly close rendition of that old Air Force acronym.

Top Gun?

Oh, oh! Wrong again! (by about 125 years). It wasn’t me that took the first selfie, and as usual, it was Mr. Google who put me straight. The first-ever selfie photo was taken by a guy named Robert Cornelius in 1839, a couple of years before I was born. So, another of my myths is debunked.

But maybe, just maybe, way before Van Gogh, there were even older painted selfies. Perhaps, back a few centuries ago, some spelunker scrawled his idea of what he thought he looked like, on the wall of some cave. (Don’t spend too much time researching that.)

See you next week,

P. Michael Jordan



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