I can’t take my eyes off the photo below. Have you seen it before? It dates back to October, 1839 when pioneers in photography were experimenting with the daguerreotype (the first practicable method of obtaining permanent images with a camera, developed in France).

The photo below is considered to be the first self-portrait and is of Robert Cornelius, a Dutch born American chemist. According to stories I’ve read, Cornelius set up his camera at the back of his father’s gas lamp-importing business on Chestnut Street in Center City, Philadelphia. It was a sunny day and his knowledge of metallurgy and chemistry gave him a great interest in photography.

At the dawn of photography, it could take up to 30 minutes to get an exposure. I don’t know how long this quarter-plate daguerreotype took Cornelius but you can see his arms are crossed and, what I find AMAZING, is how contemporary he looks (not to mention pretty good looking). He kind of reminds me of Colin Firth playing Mr Darcy in Pride & Prejudice. We are talking 174 years ago people and, when I think about dudes in the early to mid-1800s, I don’t imagine them to look as hot as Robert Cornelius!

Apparently, he went on to operate two of the earliest photographic studios in America. He later seemed to have lost interest in photography or perhaps the market became saturated with photographers and studios. Cornelius went to work in the family gas lamp business and died in 1893.