Do You Know Who Invented the Selfie?

Woman sitting on a dock taking a selfie.

Nono Bayar / Pexels

Selfie is the slang term for "self-portrait," a photograph you take of yourself, usually taken using a mirror or with a camera held at arm's length. The act of taking and sharing selfies has become widely popular due to digital cameras, the internet, the ubiquity of social media platforms like Facebook and, of course, because of people's endless fascination with their own image.

The word "selfie" was even chosen as the "Word of the Year" in 2013 by the Oxford English Dictionary, which has the following entry for the word:

"A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website."

History of the Self Portrait

So who took the first "selfie?" In discussing the invention of the first selfie, we have to first pay homage to the film camera and the early history of photography. In photography, self-portraits were taking place long before the invention of Facebook and smartphones. One example is American photographer Robert Cornelius, who took a self-portrait daguerreotype (the first practical process of photography) of himself in 1839. The image is also considered one of the earliest photographs of a person.

In 1914, 13-year-old Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna took a self-portrait using a Kodak Brownie box camera (invented in 1900) and sent the photograph to a friend with the following note "I took this picture of myself looking at the mirror. It was very hard as my hands were trembling." Nikolaevna appears to have been the first teenager to take a selfie.

So Who Invented the First Selfie? 

Australia has laid claim to inventing the modern-day selfie. In September 2001, a group of Australians created a website and uploaded the first digital self-portraits onto the internet. On September 13, 2002, the first recorded published use of the term "selfie" to describe a self-portrait photograph occurred on the Australian internet forum (ABC Online). The anonymous poster wrote the following, along with posting a selfie of himself:

Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped over and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.

A Hollywood cameraman named Lester Wisbrod claims he is the first person to take celebrity selfies, (a self-taken photo of himself and a celebrity) and has been doing so since 1981.

Medical authorities have begun to associate the taking of too many selfies as a potentially unhealthy sign of mental health issues. Take the case of 19-year-old Danny Bowman, who attempted suicide after failing to take what he considered the perfect selfie.

Bowman was spending most of his waking hours taking hundreds of selfies every day, losing weight and dropping out of school in the process. Becoming obsessed with taking selfies is often a sign of body dysmorphic disorder, an anxiety disorder about personal appearance. Danny Bowman was diagnosed with this condition.


  • Pearlman, Jonathan. "Australian man 'invented the selfie after drunken night out.'" The Telegraph, November 19, 2013, Sydney, Austalia.
  • "'Selfie' named by Oxford Dictionaries as word of 2013." BBC News, November 19, 2013.
  • Shontell, Alyson. "This Photo From 1900 Might Be The Oldest Selfie Ever Taken (And It Wasn’t Easy To Pull Off)." October 28, 2013.
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Your Citation
Bellis, Mary. "Do You Know Who Invented the Selfie?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Bellis, Mary. (2020, August 28). Do You Know Who Invented the Selfie? Retrieved from Bellis, Mary. "Do You Know Who Invented the Selfie?" ThoughtCo. (accessed June 3, 2023).