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I am very awesome. (Courtesy of The Getty's Open Content Program)

What Does Your 'Selfie' Style Say About You?

by Becky Lettenberger
Aug 22, 2013

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Becky Lettenberger

Last week The Getty Museum in Los Angeles announced a pretty cool thing. Its new Open Content Program makes available hundreds of thousands of digital images for free download and use. There's a lot to sift through, and the possibilities are endless. But it doesn't take long before interesting images jump out.

Like, while browsing the photo collection I found myself face to face with 19th century photographer Gaspard Felix Tournachon (known as "Nadar") and thought: "Wait, is this a ... selfie!?"

It seems silly, but it got me thinking sincerely about the origin of self-portraits. So I called up an expert, Judy Keller, senior curator of photographs at the Getty. Over the phone she talked me through the history and personalities of some of photography's first "selfies" found in this open archive.

In the end, we concluded that it seems like the propulsion to document ourselves is linked to a desire for immortality. But the way we go about preserving ourselves can say a lot about who we are as people.

Here are the results of my incomplete survey of early self-portraiture. Where do you fit in? Are you guilty of turning the camera on yourself? And if so, why do you do it?

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