1913: Duchess Anastasia Takes a Selfie

Yet another teenage girl captures an image of herself.
More
Retronaut

Selfies, selfies, everywhere: in our Facebook feeds, in our news reports, in our dictionaries. But what do these tech-enabled self portraits say about their subjects? And, indeed: What do they say about us? Are they, as their names might suggest, symptoms of narcissism? Are they empowering? Are they a cry for help

They are probably, on some level, all of those things—in addition to being just, you know, playful pictures. But here's another thing about selfies: They are not new. Selfies, contemporary anxieties about them notwithstanding, are very, very old.  

The latest reminder of this (which is also an appropriately aged reminder of this): the selfie above. Which was, apparently, snapped by the Grand Duchess Anastasia (yep, that Anastasia) in 1913, when she was a teenager. The youngest daughter of Russia's last czar is using the wildly popular camera of her time—the Kodak brownie, released in 1900—and a mirror to capture her own likeness. She is gazing at herself. She is looking at herself. She looks, to me, a little bit curious. And a little bit excited. And a little bit scared. 

But I am assuming all those things on her behalf. What, actually, was she thinking as she snapped this photo, years before her early death? Was she feeling self-conscious? Was she feeling empowered? Was she feeling narcissistic? We don't know. All we know is that, thanks to a new camera and an old impulse, a teenage girl was able to gaze into a mirror, look into her own eyes, and capture her image for posterity. 

Via Retronaut

 

Jump to comments
Presented by

Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

How have stories changed in the age of social media? The minds behind House of Cards, This American Life, and The Moth discuss.


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In