Although “selfies” started generating buzz last year, the first recorded instance of a “selfie”, taken by Robert Cornelius, dates back to 1839. The daguerreotype photographic process of the day was so slow that Bob was able to open the lens, run into the shot for several minutes, and then head back to replace the lens cap. History did not record how he shared this image with his social network.
The Kodak Brownie camera, introduced around 1900, really got the self-portraiture trend rolling. The technique usually involved a tripod, a mirror, and some form of timer or remote shutter release. Smaller, simpler cameras eventually led to the current method of holding a camera at arms length to take the shot. Once cell-phone cameras and internet-enabled social media converged, we were off and running. Today, Instagram users share more than 60 million photos a day, an estimated 30% of which are selfies.
One of the most appealing things about a selfie is spontaneity. Most of us carry a cell phone, most cell phones have cameras, and the impulse to capture a self-portrait is easily fulfilled. Carrying additional gear (tripods, mirrors, or remote shutter releases) changes everything. Nevertheless, entrepreneurs are lining up to test the waters of selfie accessories.
In the first example, vanity lies at the intersection of a very large hair brush and the compulsion to take one’s own picture and post it online. A phone case that doubles as a grooming tool might not escape the “useless gadget” category, but a handle that can first tame your hair and then steady your selfie-shot just might do the trick. The purveyor of this technology, WetBrush, seems to have overlooked that fact that “wet” and “cell phone” do not get along well.
A somewhat more conventional accessory, similar to the monopod used by photographers to steady a shot, is the “selfie-on-a-stick.” Reception is mixed. Time magazine chose this product, along with the aforementioned selfie-brush, as one of the best inventions of 2014. I have decided to overlook this and continue my subscription. Meanwhile, using one of these in South Korea can get you a hefty fine; holding a Bluetooth transceiver up in the air on a stick apparently causes interference with other nearby devices.
As for me, I’ve grown pretty comfortable with asking a passerby to take my picture. I have yet to find someone who is not familiar with my iPhone camera. Granted this is the old-school approach, and it isn’t technically a “selfie”, but who’s gonna know?