Never underestimate the power of a selfie.
There’s a museum dedicated to the phenomenon with photo opportunities in every room in lieu of exhibits. The term even fought its way into the Oxford Dictionary in 2013 and was named “word of the year.”
And today, on June 21, enthusiasts can celebrate the art form with National Selfie Day.
But before Ellen broke Twitter records with her mega-celebrity group shot and Kim snapped a self-portrait before Khloe went to jail, who invented the ubiquitous photography style known for the pouts and poses it evokes from subjects?
That honor belongs to Robert Cornelius, a photography enthusiast from Philadelphia, who in October 1839 took his own picture in the backyard of his family’s light fixture store.
Eager to try out daguerrotypy, a photography method that had been invented just two months prior, Cornelius set up a large box camera with a lens fashioned from a pair of opera glasses, according to the Library of Congress.
And then, he froze.
Light exposure then took between three to 15 minutes to adjust, so Cornelius likely had to remain still for quite a while to capture the photo.
By definition, the subject of a selfie takes the photo with a smartphone and later shares it on social media.
Cornelius didn’t hold the camera (early ones were far too large and heavy to do that) and he probably didn’t intend for it to be shared with the masses, but he took it himself—enough to earn him the Guinness World Record for the first selfie and a spot in the Library of Congress.