Locating the Selfie within Photography’s History—and Beyond

  • Kris Belden-Adams


At first glance, selfies may seem to be unlikely objects for rigorous academic study. They are ubiquitous, their exchange is guided by the rapidly mutating social trends of the millennial and postmillennial generations, and they occupy the dynamic, spectral “walls” of social media sites rather than art galleries and museums. Selfies operate at the nexus of many fields of study: Media Studies, Sociology, Psychology, Digital Culture Studies, Theater, Family Folklore, Oral Tradition, the study of Narrative, Visual Culture, Archival Studies, Photography History, Art History, and the History of Technology. Although the selfie is difficult to fully encapsulate within the analytical framework of any one field, a closer examination of the origin of selfies through a look at the History of Photography reveals this genre of image-making to be surprisingly multifaceted, rapidly mutating, and intensely relevant to discussions about the impact of the medium’s dissemination. Almost as soon as photography was invented in the early-nineteenth century, the first selfie also appeared. While various dimensions of the selfie find their roots in the history and theorization of photography, the selfie is just as much an ahistorical, precedent-setting practice. This chapter positions the selfie within the history of photographic self-portraiture, in an effort to distinguish it from history, while exploring its uniqueness as an image-making practice.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kris Belden-Adams
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MississippiOxfordUSA

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