Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Ancestor 'Selfies'....Got Any?

With our society's evolving technology saturation and its new fascination with 'Selfies', it got me to thinking about how our ancestors might have responded to these cultural developments....and....did they exhibit some of the same traits in their own primitive ways?

The term 'Selfie' is relatively new and bandied about frequently by the younger set. But, did you know that the term is rather restrictive? According to several un-official, pop sources, selfies are only selfies when you take a pic of yourself with a small camera or smartphone for the purpose of sharing via social media. Apparently, some have cautioned that group shots are NOT selfies (I disagree) and that the optimal version of a selfie involves a mirror with eyes looking anywhere but right at the camera: Many have declared that this is the new doomsday sign of a narcissistic society that doesn't have a clue about real social issues.

I'll leave the social implications to the experts and challenge the rest of you to look through your family collections for "ancestral" or "vintage" selfies. I will post a few from my own collection, but here are some thoughts about what characteristics might qualify a vintage photo as a 'selfie':

  • Photo should usually be about one person in order to compare to the narcissistic nature of today's selfies. Despite our ancestors' lack of smart phone with large mirror in a bathroom, they still loved snapping shots of themselves. How did they manage? Usually a primitive photo booth, or portable camera. I will allow a couple or few people in the shot to qualify since our ancestors loved seeing how many friends they could cram into the photo booth.
  • Photo should have at least a slight narcissistic feel to the image. Either a facial expression trying to be seductive, or a purely unabashed look that says "Yes, here I am, aren't I adorable!!" Could be achieved through general snapshot, photo booth or even studio scenario. Studio shots are only accepted if the photo screams narcissism...I will have an example below....I also think the old Glamour Shots fit into this category, but not quite ready to bring those out with the rest of the ancestor "gems".
  • Photo should have a spontaneous feel to it. I know studio portraits are OK if they fit the narcissistic bill above, but non-studio pics should always have a sense of fun, play and zero planning. Sometimes these may try to capture an event the person has just participated in or a new place they have visited. Just think about the many ways we take out the phone to snap a moment. Anything that resembles our snapping habit should be able to fit the ancestral selfie definition.
  • And as a special category - don't forget the elusive "drunk" selfie. While we see many of those today, those were not as prevalent in previous generations. Oh, they do exist, but nothing like the frequency of the current drunk trend.

For further reading, her is another take on "Vintage Selfies"....and below, some ancestral 'selfies' from my personal collection:

Great-Grandma Ruth.....ummmm....boudoir photo in her skivvies = seductive 'selfie'

Hey, Baby....I just killed a moose in the Klondike...How Ya like me now?!

What rhymes with 'Drunk'? Oh yeah...'Skunk'! (Very drunk, according to reports)

Taken at Coney Island in Cincinnati: Beyersdoerfer/Fliehmann Family
Just FYI: the top photo in this series is the same gentleman that holds the skunk above.
Apparently, he was a lifelong fan of 'selfies'.

Grandma Freida: The saintly, demur 'selfie'

Also Freida, with Grandpa Roy: One of my all-time favorites.
Could also be another "drunk" 'selfie', but knowing these two, I kinda doubt it.
Sure were having a lot of fun though....hmmmm

Got any 'selfies' to share? Btw, in my opinion, 'selfies' can also exist in paintings and the silhouette portraits of pre-photography days!
Happy hunting!!


Our photos said...

Beautiful old photos!

Vilt og vakkert said...

Heisann Jana!

Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog.. and I´m glad you like the posts about my country... where your folks come from!
I will continue my series of Norwegian Culture, so you´re welcome to join me.
I have a blog of my family too,

Have a nice weekend ;:OD)

Jana Last said...


I want to let you know that two of your blog posts are listed in today's Fab Finds post at

Have a great weekend!

Cheri Daniels said...

Thanks for including my posts Jana! I am off to tweet or re-tweet this list of fab finds!

Celia Lewis said...

Oh Cheri, this is a marvellous post! I enjoyed it so much - wish I had a few of my own, but they must have all been thrown away - I can't find any in my own or my (long-deceased) mother's photo folders. Thank you for sharing these great photos.

Cheri Daniels said...

Thanks Celia! I admit this one was a very fun post to write - my next goal is searching through the family photos for ancestor photo-bombs! (If I can find any!)So many young folk dismiss those from the past as if they were different - they were human just like us, and nothing has really changed in that regard. I firmly believe that if they were privy to smart phones and digital cameras, they would have acted just like us - maybe even wilder knowing the eccentricities of some of my ancestors!


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