Not inventing the selfie

I thought briefly, maybe, just once, I had invented the selfie. I was thinking of a time about 13 or so years ago, whenever we first had a digital camera at the beach, which is to say a lifetime ago. The people with me in the photos at the time couldn’t have been more confused. “You don’t want me to take a picture of you?”

Some of the photos make the time look at least 20 years ago. This child is clearly in high school, right? But, no, I wasn’t. Just skinny and clean-shaven. As a colleague from then said when seeing me recently, “You filled out!” Yes. But, no, I didn’t invent the selfie.

Northwestern kids in 1975 did, or didn’t (probably didn’t), using a trigger on a cord, spurring a yearbook feature that ran for decades. Even if they didn’t invent the selfie, their results were wonderful and true to the selfie spirit that lives today. Said a yearbook editor from 1980 to the alumni magazine: “It’s disarming, because you think, ‘Oh, it’s just a snapshot.’ But in fact, the photographer is working very, very hard to make it just what he wants it to be.”

This gallery of those shots makes my day. Personal favorites: the guy jumping out the window, the man with the Muppet lapel, the gang of greasers, and the girl in the laundry machine.

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