Robert Cornelius's FIRST SELFIE + PORTRAIT EVER(!), 1839

13 years only after photography invention!


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 A 30-year-old man stood alone in the yard of his family’s Philadelphia gas lighting business. The year was 1839, and it was late October or early November. In front of him was a makeshift camera, its lens fashioned from an opera glass.

 He’d already determined the daylight was adequate to expose the carefully prepared metal plate within the camera and take a photograph of himself. Last but not least, he had to remain motionless and gaze forward for 10 to 15 minutes — no easy task.

 The man was Robert Cornelius, and people sometimes joke that he took the world’s first selfie that day when he posed in his yard, broodingly handsome with his collar upturned and his hair disheveled. But he accomplished much more than the term “selfie” implies.

 “Taking a portrait is astounding in 1839,” said Rachel Wetzel of the Library’s Conservation Division. “Taking a self-portrait is a whole next level up from that. That portrait is incredibly significant.”

 Cornelius’ picture, a daguerreotype, is considered the earliest extant photographic portrait in the world. The Library of Congress acquired it in 1996, along with other examples of Cornelius’ works, as part of the Marian S. Carson collection.



"Robert Cornelius and the First Selfie", Wendi Maloney, July 25, 2022

In 1996 to the Library of Congress by Cornelius’ great-great-grand-daughter, Sarah Bodine!


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