Skip to main content


We were taking selfies before "selfie" even became a word*. My good friend Wegs Pedroso owned a portable blue Sony digital camera that she brought with her everywhere, especially during lab classes where she took photos of slides straight from the microscope then uploaded it in Multiply, a terrific photo-sharing site before the Facebook era. This was the camera's primary utility, but Wegs also used it to take photos of ourselves, while picking samples of Dieffenbachia, or eating at CASAA (already burned down, to our dismay, as the place sold delicious turon), or hanging out at Albert Hall in between PCRs. Her primary subjects were me, Dianne Deuna (who's doing further studies in marine biology--so cool!), Juanchi Pablo (who's based in the States, married, with a smart kid, but still balding), and our other block mates in molecular biology. This is my personal history of the selfie. How we managed to get everything done still escapes me!

But when did this phenomenon start? Jonah Engel Bromwich of the New York Times set out to find the first selfie taken in history.

Robert Cornelius's photo, taken in 1839, is considered the first selfie, but "he ran into the frame. Could it be argued that a selfie must be taken using a hand-held camera?"

The image in question was taken in 1839 by an amateur chemist and photography enthusiast from Philadelphia named Robert Cornelius. Cornelius had set his camera up at the back of the family store in Philadelphia. He took the image by removing the lens cap and then running into frame where he sat for a minute before covering up the lens again. On the back he wrote “The first light Picture ever taken. 1839.” 
I've gotten past the impulse to take selfies. I've done it so rarely these days--during my roommate Tom's 30th birthday (for posterity); my travels, mainly to appease my father ("Tay, nakita ko na ang Eiffel Tower!"); or when my students insist, usually after rounds--as I find the exercise rather extraneous. Seeing photos of myself online also makes me uncomfortable.

*It was first used in 2002 and became Oxford's Word of the Year in 2013.


  1. Yeah, I don't know if photos propped up cameras on the timer setting could be properly called selfies, but technically, I suppose they are if you're alone in the photo and you took it yourself.

  2. er, I meant "photos from propped up cameras"

    1. Any photo of yourself that you took qualifies as a selfie, I think.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Tarps and COVID-19

Saw this in my feed. So Pinoy in many respects:  the graduation photo the tarp with three fonts: Monotype Corsiva ("Congratulations"), Arial (the girl's name), and the serif below the papaya tree the use of the middle name the color scheme (pink in white) the iconic Philippine countryside It's the first time I'm hearing about Zarraga, some 16 km north of Iloilo City. Seems like a charming place to visit. Also COVID-free. 

Week 9, 2012: Aboard the MV Logos Hope

I met old friends from college last Saturday. We had breakfast at an old restaurant along Ongpin Street called Saludo's. Some of us went to Logos Hope, a ship with lots of books inside it—some 5000 titles, we were told. The sun was hot, in a cancerous, melanoma-inducing kind of way. Summer is just right around the corner. Took us a while to get inside the ship. I thought this view of Manila's skyline from one of the windows was amazing. We saw what we came for: books. They were sold in "units" that had a corresponding peso conversion. The books sold cheaply, so I got David Copperfield by Charles Dickens for 150 units (Php 150). I plan to read at least one Dickens novel this year, 2012 being his 200th birthday. (I'm ashamed to admit I haven't read a single novel of his, ever). I saw Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, classics, modern fiction, modern Christian literature, biographies, medical and nursing textbooks, and children's books. Visit