TBT: ‘Kodak’ is born, and then, the selfie

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The next generation won’t appreciate the etiology of “dial” relative to a phone number, nor will they appreciate that the “camera roll” on their iPhone refers to what was once an actual roll of film.

And were it not for something that happened 126 years ago today, perhaps no such reference would be needed. On September 4, 1888, George Eastman patented the first roll-film camera and registered his company, “Kodak.”

A few billion selfies later, we commemorate this event with a Throwback Thursday on, you guessed it, the history of the selfie itself.

This week additionally marks the 12th birthday of the word selfie. The first traced appearance was on an Australian internet form, ABC Online, on September 13, 2002.

The first known selfie took minutes to make. American photographer Robert Cornelius took one of the first photographs of a person, which happened to be himself, using the slow daguerreotype process in 1839. He uncovered the lens, ran into the shot for a few minutes, and then ran back to replace the lens cap.

Selfies became a little easier to accomplish after 1900 when the portable Kodak Brownie box camera debuted. “Photographic self-portraiture” became more widespread at that time, and involved stabilizing a camera on a nearby object or tripod. Just like with the now extinct flip phone cameras of last decade, the selfies of the early 20th century generally required the use of a mirror. (But probably a parlor one rather than today’s classy bathroom stall).

In 1914, the 13-year-old Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna selfied herself using a mirror and sent the image to a friend, writing, “I took this picture of myself looking at the mirror. It was very hard as my hands were trembling.”

How little things change. (Of course, ever since the advent of the front-facing smartphone camera, hands tremble a little less in the process.)

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin took the first EVA (extra-vehicular activity) selfie in the fall of 1966. He took UV still photos and 16 mm color movie pictures from outside the Gemini XII. He also conducted a light exercise routine on this EVA excursion — another activity not uncommon in today’s selfie catalog.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.