The Selfie

The Day I Invented The Selfie

It happened one day when I was up to no good! I was perhaps four or five years old. I had grown fascinated with a small black box, and the shiny silver cone shaped attachment that was capable of creating massive explosions of light. It seemed that whenever mother used the black box, it created quite a ruckus!  Laughter and excitement filled our home. I wasn’t sure what it did or how it worked, but I knew I had to find out what it was that made people so happy.

Mother stored the black box and all of its parts in a larger yellow brown cardboard box on a high shelf in her bedroom. I watched her time and again, as she sat on her bed and carefully replaced each part into its own special cutout within the box. I knew the shelf was too high for me to reach, but I was determined that one day when the moment was right, I would see and touch everything inside.

Opportunity literally knocked one day when a neighbor stopped in for coffee. While mother and our neighbor chatted and laughed in the kitchen, I snuck off to her bedroom. I, carefully and quietly, climbed up each of the shelves until I finally reached the box. With the coveted bounty clutched close to my chest, I cautiously lowered myself down the shelves.

I sat cross legged on mom’s bed with the box before me. Time stood still as I began my examination. First, I traced each of the red and white letters on the outside of the cardboard box. Though I could not understand at the time, the letters formed the words, Kodak Brownie Hawkeye. Then, I held my breath and slowly lifted the lid. My nose tingled as the slightly acrid chemical smell of film and burnt flash bulbs was released into the air. My heart raced as I lifted the black box from its cutout. My tiny hands explored every button, lever, circle, and even the leather strap. Next was the shiny cone shaped item. This part was not nearly as interesting as the first, so I quickly connected it to the black box, as I had seen mother do so often. I plucked a bulb from its holding place and admired the smooth surface. Then I placed it in the cone.

I was feeling quite satisfied with my accomplishment. I had successfully escaped my mother’s notice, climbed to an impossible height, captured the desire of my heart, studied and held it in my hands, when it occurred to me, I had forgotten one thing. What about the explosion of light? And what about that sizzling sound that accompanied the light? I lifted the black box once again, turned it toward myself, and started pushing buttons. Suddenly, the flash went off! I sat in a stunned blind silence. I feared I would never see again!  And that is when the wailing began. Of course, my mother and the neighbor rushed to the bedroom. Alas, my coup was discovered. I expected a lecture, but instead mom just held me and laughed. I suspect she thought that nearly blinding myself was punishment enough for my misdeeds.

This event is significant for a couple of reasons. First, it was the beginning of my career in photography. One would think that the experience would have discouraged me, but it did quite the opposite. Second, and most important, is that it was when I invented the Selfie! Though I understand that it took a good forty five to fifty years to catch on, I feel proud that I could so significantly contribute to this “new” genre of photography.

In all seriousness, this was the beginning of my fascination with the camera. The ability to freeze a singular moment in time is pure magic. My hope is to capture compelling images of beauty, love, joy, and of things long forgotten. My photography has been, and will continue to be, a work in progress. I would like to acknowledge and thank a few photographers for taking the time to teach and inspire me along the journey. They are: Master of Portrait Photography, Jennifer Praniewicz of Jenuine Creations; Master of Sunsets and East Coast Living, Helen Cogan of Helen Photography; Master of Portrait and Landscape Photography, Tammy Bair-Riner of Tammy Riner Photography; and last but not least, Master of Macro and Unique Perspective Photography, Roxie Coeling of PicturedRox.


Thanks to Carmel Steffen for editing.


For more of Gail’s Photos please consider:

© Gail Howarth and Living At The Lakehouse, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gail Howarth and Living At The Lakehouse with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. Reply
    Jennifer Praniewicz October 19, 2018

    I love your heart, your writing, your photography and the very small part I was able to play to bring you to the full time fruition of your dream. All the best as you go forth. I am proud to say, “yes that Gail Howarth, she’s amazeballs and she’s going places.”

    • Reply
      Gail Howarth October 19, 2018

      Thank you, Jennifer. Your part was not small and I still consider you an active and special part of my journey. Every time I pick up the camera, I think of you. And, I am so incredibly grateful that you took and still take the time to guide me. I am excited about the “unknown” future of this endeavor. No matter where it leads, I know it will be something good. Thanks again.

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