The idea of self-portraiture has been around since early humans sprayed their handprints into the caves at El Castillo in Spain (Than), El Castillo and the first photographic self-portrait was taken by American photographer Robert Cornelius in November 1838 (Mattausch).

Robert Cornelius

The popularity of self-portraiture came during the Renaissance, and throughout the last several centuries, artists have used the self-portrait for multiple purposes, from improving their skill as artists to deep self-examination. Rembrandt used self-portraiture to show the passing of time and the process of aging, while Van Gogh’s self-portraits are a visual representation of his psychological issues and depression (Rojas). It can also serve as a means of placing the artist within a cultural context, like the self-portraits of Frida Kahlo.

Within the last several decades, the role of the photographer, subject and photographer-as-subject have been explored, with artists like Cindy Sherman looking at the role of a woman in society.

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