A “selfie” is a “self-portrait” photograph taken usually by a cell phone camera, It’s popularity has increased as cell phones became “smart phones” — mini computers with cameras that can take picture digitally without the need of film or lighting.
Selfies are often associated with social networking; casual “snapshots” typically taken either with a camera held at arm’s length or in a mirror, typically including only the photographer, or also the photographer and as many people as can fit in the frame.
But the story of “selfies,” as photographical self-portraits existed long before hand held cameras and cell phones. Robert Cornelius produced the first portrait daguerreotype in 1839, and is one of the first photographs taken with a person as a subject. The invention of the of the portable box camera in 1900 opened up the “self-portrait with a camera”, era. Self-portraits then were made by securing the camera either on a tripod or nearby stationary object.
Teenagers are the most avid and consistent amateur photographers, so it’s no surprise that the very first “selfie” was taken by a 13 year old Russian countess in 1914, taking her picture using a mirror. In the letter that accompanied the photograph, she wrote, “I took this picture of myself looking at the mirror. It was very hard as my hands were trembling”. It’s still a problem today.
Modern selfies became popular with the advent of online social media sites like Facebook. Selfies are now “universal”, selfies have been taken by astronauts in space, and there is even recorded of a selfie taken by an ape.
A nature photographer in Indonesia had his camera picked up by a female crested macaque and managed to take a selfie of herself, with that same ubiquitous grin we see in human selfies.