It all began with a dark room (camera obscura) in the 1800s. Thomas Wedgewood was the first documented person who attempted to capture an image.
Although he was unsuccessful, he paved the way for attempts by Nicephore Niepce which actually turned out successful.
In fact, Niepce and his assistant Lois Daguerre developed the process now known as the Daguerre before his sudden death, which was responsible for clearly, defined images at the time. This refined process was introduced by the surviving Daguerre in 1839, marking the year as the definitive date of the advent of practical photography.
Over the centuries, the Daguerre process has been refined even further to produce pictures in fewer minutes. Subsequent inventors like William Henry Fox Talbot came onto the scene and began changing the photography landscape with the calotype negative that used paper as opposed to the metal based Daguerre prototype.
In fact, Daguerre benefitted from the calotype negative adopted by Talbot to achieve efficiency in cleaning his images. The work of these gentlemen was followed by an avalanche of innovations and improvement on the existing machines from other inventors like Hippolyte Bayard, John Henschel, Frederick Scott among many others who are synonymous with the great gains achieved in photography.
Now we have come a long way from the period of the autochrome plate (the brainchild of the Lumiere brothers to infuse color into a photograph). To achieve picture clarity in today’s digital photography world, industry experts have been working on the processes of a digital camera from 1973 when the Fairchild semiconductor premiered the image-capturing CCD chip that captured large images.
Between 1975 and 1986 Kodak had developed the both the mosaic pattern for CCD color images sensors and the world’s first megapixel sensor.
These developments in the digital world of photography propelled us into the now popular and widely accessed web. The first web published photograph in 1992 by Tim Berners-Lee combined with the growing popularity of the social media sites breathed new life the art of photography.
All of the above inventions and reinventions have inadvertently culminated into one of the world’s most popular artistic expressions: the selfie. The selfie has now become ingrained in the history and evolution of photography. It is by far one of the largest expressions ever experienced as a medium of self-expression.
Emerging technology like the self-following drones is also set to go down in history with the selfies as one of the best accessories in this ego portraits phenomenon. Drones with the follow me mode are heralding the next phase of selfies.
It is safe to assume that when Nicephore Niepce first took that photograph of the street outside his window he had no idea how his actions would impact future generations. He would never have imagined a generation that could snap a million selfies in a day.
He would also be appalled at the lack of discretion his invention has brought about. In fact, we can hazard that he would be mortified by the funeral selfies, nude selfies, and drunken selfies to mention just a few, some even taken by world leaders.
Photography goes far beyond a self-expression. It is a means to capture our ever dynamic life in an eternal time capsule. Pictures like the one taken by Niepce at Le Gras are a reflection of his time and his values. So an important question to ask ourselves is: what do selfies reflect our values and our times?