Vintage Celebrity Selfies From Before Camera Phones Were A Thing
Jackie Kennedy taking a “selfie” with John F. Kennedy. 1960s.
Everyone thinks of the selfie as a 21st-century phenomenon. A by-product of a world where people are intensely focused on themselves more than anything else. That may be a great line for curmudgeons to grumble about, but people have been taking selfies long before camera phones and Instagram. They may have only risen to prominence in the 2000s, but photographers have been taking photos of themselves since the 19th century.
Whether you’re curious about what one of the earliest selfies looked like, or you want to see which celebrities from the Golden Age of Hollywood were all about finding the perfect look we’ve got you take care of. Say cheese!
While the main bullet points about Jackie Kennedy are her marriage to JFK and her role as a fashion icon, she lead an incredibly interesting life. Her first job after attending Vassar, the Sorbonne and George Washington University was as a photographer and reporter for the Washington Times-Herald in 1952.
Her actual position was “Inquiring Photographer” which means that she definitely knew how to snap a good quick pic. This early selfie of the President and the First Lady in the back of a car looks like something that a young couple would post on holiday, which makes this photo all the more fascinating.
Sammy Davis Perfecting His Mirror Selfie in the 1950s
Taken in a moment of pique, this early selfie has the avant-garde composure of a professional, the artful blur of a playful student, and the face of a photographer asking, “is this even going to work?” When he wasn’t crooning on stage or cutting up with the Rat Pack, Sammy Davis Jr. was the kind of photo nut who was rarely without his Rolleiflex.
Aside from cheeky selfies he took photos of famous pairs like Rex Harrison with Martin Luther King Jr as well as Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe. His archives are full of stills of marquees and quite moments with some of the world’s most famous people.
Neil deGrasse Tyson taking a selfie in 1973.
That’s right, the young man taking a photo of himself with a Pentax SP 500 is none other than beloved scientist Neill DeGrasse Tyson. Even though he’s moved on from photography he still has a deep love for the art. When asked if he took many photos as a young man Tyson said:
I did when I was a kid, and I still have a very deep respect and appreciation for it. And I wish I was strong enough to still carry around a real camera, but I, like everyone else has, resorted to my iPhone… Anytime I look through a camera lens, I’m thinking like I was doing it as I did long ago. The field has always attracted me.
Louis Armstrong Living His Best Life in the 1930s
Louis Armstrong, one of the great musical geniuses of our time, had no problem living exactly how he wanted to. When he wasn’t laying down noodly trumpet solos and providing a voice to some of the most glorious music of all time he was working on a collection of personal and private writings and photos.
While he was still alive Armstrong dedicated his private time to keeping a journal of his experiences while writing letters and keeping scrapbooks of everything he was doing. Ricky Riccardi, the director of research collections at the Louis Armstrong House Museum told the New York Times:
Posterity drove him to write manuscripts and make tapes and catalog everything. He was just completely aware of his importance and wanting to be in control of his own story.
Striking a B-Boy Pose: Émile Zola, French Novelist and Playwright in the 1900s
He’s hip, he’s cool, he’s fresh, he has a deep interest in the follies of humanity. When this photo that’s eerily reminiscent of ‘80s hip hop was taken Zola was deep in the throes of the Rougon-Macquart series. This collection of 20 novels about the Rougon-Macquart dedicated one book to each member of the family, with each of them being fairly substantial in length.
Zola hung with French artists and weirdoes in studios and cafes and he used the time spent with painters like Cézanne to fill his novel L’Oeuvre, a story about an artist who hangs himself in front of his painting. As you might imagine, Cézanne wasn’t happy about the book. However, when someone looks this fresh they just don’t care what other people think.
"Shaft" Director Gordon Parks Had a Strong Selfie Game in 1948
Check out the crispness of the photo, the way Parks is perfectly in frame even though he’s not looking at himself in a mirror, and the way light and darkness are perfectly contrasting in this early selfie. It’s easy to see why Parks was such a phenomenal director, he simply understood what it took to get a good image on film.
While he’s most popular for directing Shaft, Parks worked as a photographer for six decades, and his work from 1940 to 1950 most prominently defined the black experience in America. Parks once said that after seeing magazine photos of Dustbowl families during the depression he “was convinced of the power of a good picture.”
Click, Click, Click, and Post: Actress Geraldine Fitzgerald Snapped Her Selfie With a Remote
A fiery redhead all the way from Dublin, Ireland, Geraldine Fitzgerald had a captivating presence onscreen that made audiences stand up and taken notice. Seemingly on the cusp of photo technology, the actress can be seen here snapping a wide photo of herself before the selfie stick was even a dream in the mind of a millennial.
In the days when cameras had to be set up and loaded with film one of the sure fire ways of grabbing a photo of yourself was to plug a remote into the camera and snap your selfie that way. Such hard work.
Colin Powell's Dirty Mirror Selfie in 1954
On March 13, 2014 this retired four-star general from the United States Army posted a selfie that he took more than 60 years ago. It’s a fascinating look into the life of a man who was already on his way to being one of the most important leaders of the US military, and shows that people have been taking photos of themselves before important events long before the age of Instagram.
There’s something very cool about this mirror shot, and it provides insight into Powell’s life as a young man in a one bedroom apartment. Who else stayed in a pad with nothing but a bed, a lamp, and a radiator?
Photographer Joseph Byron and Possibly the First Long Arm Selfie in the early 1900s
Photographer Joesph Byron’s name may not be on the lips of every teen taking a selfie today, but he’s one of the most innovative photographic minds of the 20th century, and many of his works have foreshadowed the way that people take photos now, especially with the advent of lenses and lightweight cameras that allow for interesting, personal angles.
This photo from 1909 called “Self Portrait” may be the first selfie ever taken. Supposedly it was snapped on the roof of the Marceau Studio on Fifth Avenue. The size of the camera is why Byron’s arms are so far apart, and his proximity to the lens (he’s closer than you think) is why his body is warped.
But First, Let Me Take a Selfie: 23-year-old Frank in his in 1938 Selfie
Is there nothing that Sinatra couldn’t do? The guy was effortlessly cool at all times, and he even managed to take one of the first celebrity selfies in 1938. The photo wasn’t discovered until recently when his granddaughter started archiving the family photos. While going through Nancy Sinatra’s collection she found this self portrait from 1938.
Amanda Erlinger, Sinatra’s granddaughter, says that when she found this photo she shouted, “He took a selfie,” but that her grandmother had no idea what she was talking about. Finding this kind of a photo is a once in a lifetime experience, especially when your grandfather is ol’ blue eyes.
Rene Magritte Working on his Surprise Face in a 1930s Selfie
Surrealist, painter, weird face maker, Magritte remains one of the most fascinating artists of the 20th century. This Belgian artist was a student of the selfie, and even his most famous works which feature a man in a bowler hat are simply self portraits. Aside from painting, Magritte was an avid photographer who captured hundreds of images of his family and himself.
Magritte never showcased his photographs while he was alive which is why no one knows about his predilection with film. It’s clear that for Magritte photos were a private kind of art, one where he could experiment without fear of criticism.
1930s Actress Lorraine Day Feeling in Control of her Selfies with a Clicker
Star of the Dr. Kildare movies for MGM, Laraine Day was one of the most well known B actresses during the Golden Age of Hollywood. In this selfie she’s taking what look like fun portraits in a headshot studio. Maybe she was on the MGM lot one day and had some time to take some photos, or maybe the studio’s photographer was just out so she took it upon herself to commit herself to film.
Whatever the case, this is wonderful image shows that people have loved taking photos of themselves for decades. People like to be in control and control their own images, and the only way to do that is with some kind of selfie.
Ringo Starr Perfected the Art of the Selfie in 1966
Some of the most fascinating photos of The Beatles come from inside the group. Throughout their short explosion of fame drummer Ringo Starr as constantly taking candid shots of the band that show the group growing up at the height of Beatlemania.
While discussing his photography with the BBC he explained, “Though we had a lot of photographers around us, and some of them with us, no one else would have got that,” he said pointing to a candid photo of Paul. When asked if he’s a fan of the selfie he said, “Yes I’m afraid I am.”
Couples Selfie Richard Avedon and Sophia Loren in the 1960s
Richard Avedon was an American fashion and portrait photographer whose work played a major part in defining what we think of when we hear the word “style.” His photos carry a stark gracefulness about them, while also having just enough artistic flourishes to take the audience’s breath away.
This selfie with Italian actress and model Sophia Loren shows just how interesting his work could be. Note that the most interesting person in the photo, Loren, is out of focus while Avedon takes up the most space. The eye can’t help but be drawn to Loren in spite of the fact that she’s obscured. It’s not only a rare look at the world behind a fashion shoot, but a rare look at Loren before she’s in perfect hair and makeup.
An Instagram-Worthy Selfie...George Harrison at the Taj Mahal in the late 1960s
There’s no doubt that if you’re a Beatles fan that this photo immediately jumped into your brain when you read the word “selfie.” George Harrison is famous not just for being a member of the Fab Four, but of taking this seriously Instagram-worthy shot of himself in front of the Taj Mahal.
In September 1966 Harrison paid a visit to India where he managed to get this shot that looks like it was taken with a selfie stick. Since that piece of technology didn’t exist yet it was probably taken with a combination of the guitarist’s long arms and a wide angle lens.
Singer Stevie Nicks Working Her Angles
Stevie really is the queen of the selfie. Long before millennial were trying to find the perfect angle in order to get an infinity photo, the Fleetwood Mac singer was setting up a camera on a tripod and going to work in this gorgeous bathroom. In order to grab this mind bending photo Nicks used a Polaroid camera, tripod, and a cable release.
Nicks says that she took most of her selfies while on tour, mostly when she couldn’t sleep. She explained:
These pictures were taken long after everyone had gone to bed — I would begin after midnight and go until 4 or 5 in the morning. I did everything — I was the stylist, the makeup artist, the furniture mover, the lighting director — it was my joy. I was the model.
Group Selfie - Jackie Kennedy with Ethel Kennedy and John Kennedy in 1954
Is there any better time to take a selfie than when you’re on vacation? Teen do it, adults do it, and according to this photo even the most powerful politicians in the world do it. Of course, John wasn’t the President yet, but he was well on his way along his journey to the White House. This selfie was discovered by Presidential Historian Michael Beschloss, who must have been surprised to find Jackie, John, and Ethel looking so casual.
The Kennedys are known for being some of the best dressed members of high society, but it’s cool to see them so dressed down for the day on the beach.
Ahead of His Time: Michael Jackson's 1996 Selfie
This early selfie isn’t as old as some of the personal photos that we’ve collected here but it’s interesting none the less. Even though he was on top of the world in 1996, the King of Pop was like everyone else at the end of the 20th century and wanted to take a photo of himself with a digital camera. It’s unclear exactly what kind of camera he’s using, but the hallmarks of early digital photography are obvious.
It’s possible that this was taken as a still on a digital video camera, or possibly even one of those monstrous handheld still cameras. Either way it’s an interesting look into Jackson’s home life.
Star-Studded Group Selfie - Elvis Presley, Audrey Hepburn, James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, Lena Horne, Marilyn Monroe, and More.
Okay okay so this vintage selfie isn’t exactly the real deal. It’s an artistic take on the famous Ellen DeGeners Oscar selfie that she took in 2014 with stars like Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, and Meryl Streep. The photo showed off a bevy of Hollywood stars both young and old, showing that everyone likes to have their picture taken.
This imagines a world where stars of yore would do the same thing. Wouldn’t it be cool to see Elvis with James Dean? Audrey Hepburn with Marlon Brando? This group would definitely have more than a few stories to tell.
Selfie Time with Rowan Atkinson in 1987
This photo of Atkinson taking his own photo is not only very meta, but it’s a cool behind the scenes look at the British series Mr. Bean. This photo of a selfie comes from the episode “Mr. Bean Goes to Town” where he tries to find someone to help him take his photo with a Polaroid camera. Obviously, hijinks ensue and Bean ends up in the police station stabbing the culprit with a pencil (long story).
It looks like Atkinson was able to get that selfie after all, and that he didn’t need any help to grab a photo of himself in his full Bean costume. And yes, we should start referring to selfies as “going full Bean.”
Check the Face: Jimi Hendrix in a Pre-1970 Selfie
What’s the one thing you need to do before taking a selfie? You need to make sure you’ve got the perfect hair, duh. Not to blow smoke up Mr. Hendrix but he never had a bad hair day in his life. This groovy guitarist always looked so cool, whether he was a young man in the military, playing on stage at Woodstock, or hanging out behind the scenes.
This candid photo of Hendrix shows just how personable he was. Rather than use a huge makeup mirror he’s checking his look in a compact, which is honestly so much cooler than anything else he could have done.
Duck Face Madonna Snaps a Selfie On the Set of "Desperately Seeking Susan" in 1985
In 1985’s Desperately Seeking Susan Madonna plays Susan Thomas, a selfie obsessed young woman who’s constantly seen taking photos of herself on a Polaroid camera. The photos are seen as set dressing throughout the film, which shows the forethought of the self obsessed young people that started cropping up in the ‘90s and 2000s.
This photo of a selfie shows Madonna making the dreaded “duck face” decades before anyone else even thought to do it. We knew she was innovative but this is absolutely bonkers. Do you think Madonna still has any of those Polaroids? Or are they gathering dust in a set decorator's storage shed?
Paul McCartney's 1959 Deer-In-The-Headlights Selfie
Look, not everyone knows how to take the perfect selfie. Even though Macca looks like he’s about to be shot into space after taking the photo he did manage to nail the rest of the photo. Is it in focus? Check. Did he accidentally cut his head off in the photo? No way. On top of all that he’s dead center in the photo, which is a tough thing to accomplish.
McCartney is so not into selfies the he actually has a rule that he doesn’t take them any more. He says that he’d rather just be a person around the people who make it into his rarified air. He said:
I've kind of developed a strategy over the years. At first people are, 'Oh, oh', and everyone's reaching for their phone. I say, 'No, it's private time, I hope you don't mind. Let's not do any pictures. Let's hang out.’
The Most BA Seflie: Jeff Bridges and Sam Elliot in 1997
When it comes to selfies the Dude abides. It’s so cool to see two mega stars like Jeff Bridges and Sam Elliot posing for a selfie while taking a break for filming rather than running off to their trailer for private time. It makes it seem like these two guys are just regular people who like to hang out and goof off when they’re not working.
Bridges has been known to bring his Widelux camera to film shoots in order to take personal photographs, many of them selfies. In spite of the camera’s odd nature he loves it, Bridges explained:
The Widelux is a fickle mistress; its viewfinder isn’t accurate, and there’s no manual focus, so it has an arbitrariness to it, a capricious quality. I like that. It’s something I aspire to in all my work — a lack of preciousness that makes things more human and honest, a willingness to receive what’s there in the moment and to let go of the result. Getting out of the way seems to be one of the main tasks for me as an artist.
Heather Langenkamp takes a selfie on the set of A Nightmare on Elm Street, 1984
The set of the first Nightmare on Elm Street must have been such a blast. Not only where there no expectations for the film to make millions of dollars at the box office, but it was a bunch of teens running around covered in blood and guts, what more can you ask for? In the film, Heather Langenkamp plays Nancy, a young girl haunted by the sleep demon known as Freddy Krueger.
In the scene where this photo was taken Krueger calls her on the phone and attempts a super gross make out. Honestly, if there’s any prop that you’re going to take a photo with it’s got to be this one.
Typical Bathroom Selfie - Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain 1992
Ever the fashionable character, of course Courtney Love was taking bathroom selfies years before millennials thought to take phones into the bathroom and use the abundance of light. It’s oddly humanizing to see two rock gods in their PJs before a long day of doing whatever it is that rock stars do. It almost makes them look normal.
This photo snapped by Love of the couple in front of a mirror has been dated by Nirvana historians as being taken during Nirvana’s 1992 tour of Japan. Cobain’s biographer, Charles R. Cross told the Huffington Post, “They often took selfies. They were aware at the time of their role and place in culture.”
Profile Pic? Author Hunter S. Thompson in 1960
While we mostly think of Thompson as the hard living, hard drinking writer behind Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, he was actually at one point in his life a total babe. This selfie was taken when Thompson was only 22 and traveling through Puerto Rico. At the time he was hoping to find work at the San Juan Star as their sports editor. When applying to the job he wrote to the paper:
I hear you need a sports editor. If true, perhaps we can work something out. The job interests me for two reasons: the Caribbean location, and the fact that it's a new paper. Salary would be entirely secondary, as it definitely would not be here in our great rotarian democracy...As for the quality of my work, I'd be either the best or the worst sports editor you could get.
1949 Selfie with Director Stanley Kubrick
Director Stanley Kubrick is known for many things: the length of his films, his strident attention to detail, and for his love of the selfie. Over the course of his life Kubrick took a lot of selfies regardless of whether he was on set or just hanging out around the house. This photo shows the young, and very serious director taking a portrait in what looks to be his flat.
Judging by how young Kubrick looks, it’s likely that this photo was taken around 1950 when he was 20 years old. That being said, Kubrick always looked very adult so it’s hard to know his age at any given time without consulting his birth certificate.
Bill Nye, The Science Guy's 1999 Airplane Selfie
How is it that Bill Nye is the most accommodating guy on the planet? There’s no reason for this science guy to stop and take a photo with a fan, let alone do the work for them, but here he is proving that he’s a major class act. This photo just screams of the late ‘90s, from the interior of the plane to Nye’s bow tie, and of course that disposable camera that we all know so well.
This is definitely a cool shot that shows just how rad Nye is in public. It wouldn’t be a shocker to find out that he carried around disposable cameras in the ‘90s just to make grabbing a selfie a little easier on his fans.
Lloyd Bridges the original selfie king (1980)
Sure, this is a still from Airplane, but it shows the way in which selfies can be turned into genuine pieces of art and comedy with only a little presentation. This scene is only a quick gag in the movie but when you freeze frame and catch the scene at just the right time it’s hard to miss the artistry inherent in this frame.
Think of how hard it was to hold this post just so, and to make sure the shot lined up perfectly so the joke landed like a 747. Lloyd Bridges, like his son Jeff, is a serious selfie king.
No Filter Needed...Actress Patricia Neal in 1950
Patricia Neal was the star of films like The Day the Earth Stood Still and Hud where she won the Academy Award for Best Actress, and this photo shows her at her most stunning. It’s tough to have your portrait taken in a studio, sure there are the best lights and a great camera, but in 1950 it’s not as if you could take a million photos in a row and choose the best like you can now.
Back in the day there was only so many photos that could be taken before the film stock ran out. Luckily, it seems as if Patricia Neal new how to pick her angles and wasn’t worried about taking a bad shot.
Buzz Aldrin took the first selfie from space in 1966 (and posted it to Twitter 48 years later).
Wow. Is there anything more gorgeous than the emptiness of space captured on film? In 1966 astronaut Buzz Aldrin won the selfie game when he took this photo of himself with the Earth as his backdrop. It’s a glorious photo and the craizest part about it is that he didn’t show it to anyone for decades. Sure, Aldrin probably told his wife about the photo, maybe his friends, but that’s it. He didn’t show the world until a fan asked him about tweeting from the Moon. Aldrin responded with this pic and the note:
No tweets but I did take the first selfie! In, from space! That was one expensive selfie stick.
Stanley Kubrick On The Set Of "The Shining" With His Daughter. Apparently, Jack Nicholson Thought Kubrick Was Taking A Photo Of Him (1980s)
By all accounts being on the set of The Shining was a trying time for everyone involved, but it looks like director Stanley Kubrick was having a good time. In this photo, the king of the selfies is grabbing a snapshot with his daughter while Jack Nicholson poses in the foreground, assuming that he’s the one in focus.
The photo is both a hilarious trick on Nicholson, and it shows just how good of an eye Kubrick had for these sorts of things. The mise en scene is immaculate, with Kubrick’s camera, and his DP’s camera visible, but the “star” is obscured.
Linda, Paul And Mary McCartney, 1969
This photo, taken in London 1969, shows the happy McCartney family in the middle of the “Paul Is Dead” rumor that was swirling at the time. Rather than face his ultimate demise it’s clear that McCartney was simply at home with his family and trying to be the best dad as possible. Maybe Beatles fans should have been saying “Paul Is Dad.”
Out of Paul and Linda, she was obviously the better photographer. She actually met Paul while taking photographs in the 1960s. Aside from her very cool and numerous selfie, Linda’s collection of photos of rock royalty are like no other.
John Lennon, 1967
This is really a cool sight to behold. Lennon, at the peak of his Beatles years, with that classic Rolleiflex camera that so many stars seemed to have, taking not just a mirror selfie, but a mirror selfie that goes on for infinity until Lennon’s head simply disappears. It’s not just cool, it’s a wonderful artifact of the time that shows Lennon at one of his most serene moments.
The photo was taken in Lennon’s recording studio upstairs at home at Kenwood, Weybridge, Surrey, 29 June 1967. It’s likely that this was taken on a break in the middle of the “I Am The Walrus” sessions.
Dennis Hopper, 1965
Aside from being one of the craziest actors of the 20th century, Dennis Hopper is also one of the most accomplished portrait photographers of the era. In his personal life, Hopper was rarely seen without a camera in hand, and he even played a crazed photojournalist in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now.
Supposedly, Hopper took so many photos that his friends called him “the tourist” and throughout the ‘60s he took photos of pretty much every famous person you can imagine including Warhol, Rauschenberg and Ruscha, and even of a young Paul Newman. His photography style lent itself to his directorial work, which can best be seen in 1960's Easy Rider.
Actor Van Johnson taking a selfie - 1940s
Van Johnson was in Hollywood for nearly a decade before he hit his big break in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, but he was on the scene for so long that he made a lot of friends. One of those pals was photographer Gjon Mili. In 1944 Mili invited a collection of his celebrity friends to his studio in order to have them take their own portraits as a kind of artistic exercise.
Johnson took his photo with Mili’s help, likely in making sure the lighting was right and that he was framed properly, but it’s clear from the actor’s face that he was one of the many people who was unsure about what to do with their smiles when taking their own photo.
Ronald Reagan & Lester Wisbrod, 1980s
There’s something wild about taking a selfie with a president, especially after they’ve been in office. A photo like this makes you wonder where the secret service is, are they standing just out of frame and waiting to user Wisbrod out of the room? Or was this a more private moment between the two men? Whatever the case it’s a different style of presidential photo than we’re used to.
Reagan was no stranger to cameras - he famously got his start as an actor before getting into politics - but this more handheld style of photography had to be new for the president.
Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin was fond of fish-eye selfies, 1970s.
Aside from being the powerhouse guitarist from Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page was an innovator in all forms. He brought rock n roll to the masses, practiced magic, and he was out here taking selfies long before the rest of the world caught onto the trend. It’s not entirely clear what camera he was using for this selfie, but he was definitely using a fish eye lens in order to get as wide a shot as possible.
This photo shows that Page could have done anything he wanted to had he set his mind to it. What kind of photographer do you think he would have been given the chance?
Neil Armstrong, 1969
One of the coolest things about the selfies that astronauts took in space in the 1960s is that it’s proof that they’re just normal guys who happen to be in an extraordinary situation. Of course they wanted to take pictures of themselves in the midst of accomplishing one of the greatest feats ever known to man, wouldn’t you?
Can you imagine what it would have been like to see these photos come across your timeline? Granted, if this photo was taken on a camera phone it wouldn’t have the amazing vintage glow that comes with film, but it would still be cool to see.
Self-portrait eyes closed from 1979 -Andy Warhol.
This self portrait of Andy Warhol was taken in 1979 on the artist’s personal Polaroid camera. Warhol’s known for taking the images of famous people, himself included, and repurposing them in order to discuss the nature of stardom. This photo is one of his most evocative pieces and says so much about the artist.
With Warhol everything is full of meaning, unless it isn’t, so he’s either trying to say something profound by closing his eyes while taking his photo or he’s just messing with his audience. Either way it’s an astonishing early selfie. Try and recreate it when you have the time, all you need is a silver wig.
Squad Goalz...Mel Ferrer, Audrey Hepburn, Truman Capote in 1961
There are a lot of wild stories surrounding Truman Capote’s friendships with celebrities. He’s punched people, gotten into screaming matches, and argued about some of the greatest casting ever. While he’s most well known as the author of In Cold Blood, Capote also wrote the novella on which the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s is based.
In the film, Audrey Hepburn stars as Holly Golightly. However, if Capote had his way that role would have been filled by Marilyn Monroe. When Hepburn was cast Capote claimed, “Paramount double-crossed me in every way and cast Audrey.” Still, they look friendly enough here.
Leonard Nimoy Taking A Selfie 1960s
While Leonard Nimoy is most well known for playing the Vulcan Spock on the original series of Star Trek and it’s subsequent films, he was also an accomplished photographer. He didn’t just get into photography while he was acting, it was something he’d been studying since his teens. His first photographs were taken on a a bellows Kodak Autographic at the age of 13, he used his family’s bathroom as a darkroom.
There’s something really lovely about this photo. It’s as if Nimoy is trying out something new in spite of the fact that he’s been taking photos for so long. He’s clearly experimenting with something and it’s cool to be in on his practice session.
Brian May, lead guitarist of Queen, taking a selfie (1978)
Now this is a good selfie. It turns out that when he’s not busy rocking audiences across the world with Queen he’s taking really cool photos of himself on whatever camera he can get his hands on. It’s not clear exactly what he’s using here, but May seems to be an avid collector of technology, and it’s likely that he was trying out a new toy.
May hasn’t stopped taking selfies, and as Queen continues their resurgence he’s started integrating selfie sticks into his performance by taking pictures of himself with the band’s massive crowds. Long may you rock (and selfie), Brian.
Matthew McConaughey selfie on the set of 'Dazeed and Confused', 1993.
Before Matthew McConaughey was the star of every rom-com in the early 2000s he was just an actor from Texas hoping to get a big break. Dazed and Confused was a huge movie for a lot of actors, but McConaughey reaped the most rewards from the film. While on set it looks as if the star did his best to capture behind the scenes moments while taking a chance to get a photo of himself in some very cool ‘70s duds.
Who can blame McConaughey for wanting to grab a selfie with a look that he’s never had since? You might say that this selfie is more than cool. It’s alright, alright, alright.
Swedish politician and former Prime Minister of Sweden Carl Bildt takes a selfie in Stockholm, 1986
Everyone loves Carl Bildt, the former Prime Minister of Sweden who really knows how to rock a checkered suit. In 1986 taking a selfie was a lot of work, especially in the middle of the day. Sure, there’s plenty of light but it’s not exactly the best conditions for taking a photo without looking. This photo shows that Bildt’s selfie game is strong.
Bildt’s love of the selfie didn’t end in the ‘80s, he’s still a fan of taking pictures and he’s been known to grab a couple whenever someone asks. It’s rare to see such a serious politician take part in something so carefree.
A 19 Year Old Hunter S. Thompson Inventing The Selfie Stick. (1957)
Okay, hold the phone. Everyone knows that Hunter S. Thompson was an innovative writer who’s gonzo journalism defined a generation, but he invented the selfie stick too? That’s too much information to handle. It looks as if Thompson’s mind was always working, and that this writer who’s main focus was himself also loved to take his own photo.
Anyone who’s ever tried to take a picture of themselves knows how frustrating it can be when your whole body won’t fit in the frame. Obviously that’s why selfie sticks were invented, but who knew that was on the minds of young people back in the ‘50s? What a weird world.
Way ahead of his time: mirror selfie of Stanley Kubrick with showgirl Rosemary Williams, 1948
In 1949 Stanley Kubrick was assigned a job for LOOK Magazine that put him in close proximity to showgirl Rosemary Williams. Through Kubrick’s cinematic eye he was able to catch some of the most intimate images of Williams that were ever taken. In the photos she can be seen making coffee, going to church, reading, and preparing her makeup with Kubrick behind her.
The photos are an intriguing look at what it takes to build a persona, and Kubrick’s selfie is one of the most interesting pieces from the entire piece. In the photo it’s as if Kubrick doesn’t even exist to Williams, that he’s basically a fly on the wall. Little did she know that his fame would soon eclipse hers completely.