Mirror Self Portraits from the Early Days of Photography


Staring into a mirror and taking a self-portrait with a camera is nothing new. People have been trying to find ways to take their photographs since the 19th century. As humans, we take an interest in ourselves – a curiosity with a dash of self-obsession. A photograph can acknowledge our existence and allow us to view ourselves from the standpoint of others around us. Here are a collection of mirror self-portraits from years passed.

The Edwardian period, the first decade of the 20th century, gave birth to a self-portrait of a woman using her dresser mirror and a box camera. The photograph depicts the woman taking her portrait; on the side, is a shelf full of other photos. We can assume she was relatively interested in photography at the turn of the century.


One of the first self-portraits of a teenager was believed to have occurred in 1914. Since then, the ‘selfie’ craze has caught on and doesn’t appear to be dying down anytime soon. The photograph of Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna depicts her on a chair, taking her picture with the aid of a large mirror. The photograph was then sent to a friend of hers with the attached message: “I took this picture of myself looking at the mirror. It was very hard as my hands were trembling.”


Nikolaevna shot another one with her sister the following year:


In 1917, Australian flying ace, Thomas Baker, snapped a photograph when he was twenty years old. Baker is using a Kodak Eastman camera with the support of a vanity mirror. The desk laid out in the photo includes an empty wine bottle and a glass – we will let you decide if this is the first ‘party selfie’ or not.

Henri Evenepoel was a Belgian artist who lived during the late 19th century. Evenepoel focused on a style of art known as Fauvism. This small mirror self-portrait was taken in 1898, a year before he passed away.


Swiss photographer Frédéric Boissonnas in 1900:


Luxembourgian American photographer Edward Jean Steichen shot a mirror portrait of his own in 1917.


Photographer Ilse Bing used a Leica camera for this self portrait in 1931.


Vivian Maier was a street photographer in the 20th century. You may be familiar with Maier’s work due to an American documentary film that debuted in 2013 entitled “Finding Vivian Maier”. A good selection of her photographs are self-portraits she took on the street using the reflections of buildings. The depicted photo was taken in 1954 with a Rolleiflex TLR camera.


Not every self-portrait was taken with a known individual as the subject. Here is a collection of other great early self-portraits, taken with a variety of different cameras.




Despite today’s craze of self portraits – they are nothing new. People have been photographing themselves since the 1800s and will continue to do so into the predictable future. It is up to you to decide what truly makes a self portrait worthy of display. Now excuse me, I left my selfie stick in the other room.