Those amazing Ritley’s: the world’s first selfie

Continuing the series, I am always surprised when I encounter someone who has not heard the name Ritley.

OK, maybe I am an exception – I have not yet made my mark. But . . .

Hardly a man, woman or child anywhere on the face of the planet has not heard of their stunning accomplishments. They are a family steeped in the tradition of excellence, whose capacity for profound intellectual thought is exceeded only by their talent to affect meaningful changes (which often border on the revolutionary) to the fundamental problems of global significance they selflessly tackle.

This snap is not just any snap. Now hanging in the world famous Smithsonian Institution (Record Number SIA Acc. 11-006 [MAH-3002]), in its very own case in its very own room, it is in fact what most historians universally agree is the world’s first selfie, taken during the 1970’s by Arlene Ritley, using a real camera with real film:

As a very small boy I remember seeing this snap for the first time and simply being amazed – turning the camera to take a snap of the person doing the snapping. “This is amazing and unbelievable!” I think I said.

And Mrs. Ritley turned to me with a warm smile, then she slowly raised her head and looked deep into the distance, saying to me – and I remember it well –  “Oh, glorious day upon us!” It seems Ritleys are always using expressions like that. “Remember this moment, my dear child, for I am calling this revolutionary technique a selfie, and I am hereby giving it freely to the world – just like generations of Ritleys have done – for the betterment of all mankind.”

And with this Ritley contribution, many decades ago, the selfie was born.

If you happen to one day make it to Washington DC, and if you have a bit of spare time to visit the Smithsonian Institution, just ask any docent to point you to the Ritley Room – a tiny room to be sure, but the only room in the entire museum to house just one artefact, the world’s first selfie!