Sep 7, 2012

Robert Cornelius: The First Photographic Self Portrait Circa 1839



It was the fall of 1839. The place Philadelphia. Two men working in chemistry, Robert Cornelius and Joseph Saxton.  This self portrait photograph was the first of any human to have been produced.  Cornelius went on to operate two of the earliest photography studios in the United States between 1841-1843. 

Here is an exerpt from: Godey's Lady's Book (Philadelphia) Vol. 20 (April 1840) pg. 190.

   There is a young gentleman of this city, by the name of Robert Cornelius, one of the firm of the well known house of Cornelius, Son & Co., who has more genius than he yet supposes himself to possess. As a designer in the way of his profession, he has no equal; as a ventriloquist—but here we are getting into private life:—as a Daguerreotypist his specimens are the best that have yet been seen in this country, and we speak this with a full knowledge of the specimens shown here by Mr. Gouraud, purporting to be, and no doubt truly, by Daguerre himself. We have seen many specimens by young Cornelius, and we pronounce them unsurpassable—they must be seen to be appreciated. Catching a shadow is a thing no more to be laughed at. Mr. Cornelius, in one matter, has outstripped the great master of the art, a thing, by the way, peculiar to our countrymen; he has succeeded in etching his designs onto the plate, from which they cannot be removed by any effort. A few more experiments in this way, and we shall do without engravers—those very expensive gentlemen.

 I must say he was a rather handsome man with great hair.