Tuesday, January 7, 2014
“Here I am” - From photographic self-portrait to selfie
In November 2013 Oxford Dictionaries picked selfie as their Word of the Year. That word apparently started in 2002, but self portrait photos go back to a few months after Daguerre announced his photographic method in August 1839.
A selfie is a great way to add yourself to an image for a presentation. It could be of a historical place, a person from your audience, or anything else that will add to the story you’re telling.
The self-portrait of Robert Cornelius in Philadelphia shown above was taken in October 1839. Back then producing a photo took several minutes, so a photographer could take off the lens cap, walk into the picture, and then stand still.
Then photo media got more sensitive and exposures dropped to several seconds. Over a century ago some cameras has shutters activated by a squeezing a rubber bulb (like on a turkey baster) connected by rubber tubing.
Eventually single lens reflex cameras included self-timers. My first one, a 1981 Minolta XG-M gave me ten seconds to get into the picture. The photo still needed to be planned by setting the focus and lens aperture.
My first digital camera, a 2001 Nikon Coolpix 995 had both a self-timer and a lens assembly that could be rotated, so the LCD viewfinder gave a live view for self-portraits (as shown above).
Now it’s easy to take a selfie, because you can view the resulting image seconds after you take it. You can find guides like David Peterson's How to Take a Great Selfie, or 19 Tips for Taking Pretty Selfies from Seventeen magazine.
You even could plan a series of images. For example, I could have added myself to the track at the Golden Spike National Historic Site, and then showed the tie where that famous spike was driven to complete the transcontinental railroad.
The Cornelius self-portrait came from the Library of Congress.