Mayfair, Kelvin, Earlybird — it really won’t make a difference. Because when it comes to these absolutely wonderful selfies taken as early 1909, all of our carefully selected Instagram filters will never begin to compare.
Tom has graciously provided us with some background on the man who was taking selfies before taking selfies was cool. It seems his whole family comes from a long line of photography aficionados.
It seems likely that James’ son Joseph Byron Clayton was helping his father in the studio in his late teens, from around 1863-1864 onwards. By early 1867, however, he was working in London and was assisting a photographer named Sanderson…. The portrait of a well dressed young man with top hat and gloves, presumably taken at these premises, demonstrates that he was already a fairly competent practitioner with an adequately furnished, if not quite luxurious, studio…..
For a year Joseph Byron practised as a freelance press photographer for the Illustrated American and other clients, before making a breakthrough into what would become a lengthy career in stage photography (Simmons, 1999). His son Percy Byron followed him into the practice, but in 1906 moved to Edmonton, Alberta where he established a photographic business with his brother-in-law Gustave May. After a decade of growth, when the Byron-May experienced a significant downturn in business during the Great War, he returned to New York and rejoined his father, spearheading a new specialisation into ship photography.
You can read more about Joseph’s admittedly fascinating history here. Believe us, it’s worth the trip, if not just to see the incredible evolution of Byron’s business card, the dozens of iterations ranging from 1863 to 1888.
Though these photos may be some of the earliest self-taken portraits, they’re almost certainly not the first. If you think you can find some even older shots, feel free to share ’em down below. Because old timey selfies make the best selfies.