He has the immaculate hair and serious expression that appears in millions of teenage ‘selfies’ – but this is one of the first ever taken … in 1907.
The photograph, discovered by archivists at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS), is 106 years old and was taken in the Corsee area of Nairn, Inverness-shire.
Before the birth of the internet, the word “selfie” was unheard of, but this shot proves that even in the early 20th century, people were taking self-portrait pictures with hand-held cameras.
The image was found among a number of family holiday snaps from an album owned by a woman called Isabel Asher.
In the centre of the picture is a mirror wedged between two rocks and staring back into it with his camera is a young boy, surrounded by clear skies behind him and branches from nearby trees.
But the RCAHMS have no record of who Isabel Asher was and the identity of the well-dressed boy is a complete mystery.
It can be assumed from the boy’s parted hair, quality suit and shirt-tie combination that he was from an upper-middle class pre-war family, but RCAHMS public engagement manager, Philip Graham, is desperate for more information about him.
He said: “We think this is probably the earliest selfie in Scotland.
“It dates from 1907 and was taken from the ‘Isabel Asher Album’ which also contains a number of sketches and amateur snapshots.
“Some of them are from holidays in the Ross and Cromarty regions and so it could be that this is one of Isabel’s relatives.
“Personally, I think he will be part of the Asher family, but we’re not sure what his Christian name is.
“It may be that someone out there might recognise the photograph or the family name, and be able to provide us with more information to add to our archive.”
The amateur snap was discovered among the five million historical items that the RCAHMS possesses relating to Scotland’s archaeology, buildings, industry and society.
And RCAHMS archivists have come across another amazing photograph thought to be of a renowned former staff member taking an accidental selfie in 1954.
The picture appears to show David Walker, who went on to become chief inspector at Historic Scotland, mistakenly taking a photo of himself in the dining room of Castleroy House in Broughty Ferry, Dundee.
Philip said: “It is quite an interesting photograph as well and this time, appears to be a completely accidental one.
“It shows an architectural surveyor, thought to be Professor David Walker, who seems to have been trying to take photographs of the side table in the dining room at Castle Roy house and he’s managed, just by chance, to capture himself in the large mirror.
“It’s an interesting image of the room itself and the building, but it’s made all the more fascinating by the fact that it’s an inadvertent selfie.”
While it may seem that selfies are a new phenomenon, many argue that the concept actually goes back more than 100 years.
The debut of the portable Kodak Brownie box camera in February 1900 is believed to have initiated the desire to use self-portraiture as a technique, although only the middle and upper classes could afford these devices.
Philip said: “People today would certainly appear to be more interested in selfies than ever before.
“You only have to look at the media controversy over the recent photographs of President Obama, David Cameron and the Danish Prime Minister at Nelson Mandela’s funeral – and of course, Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year is ‘selfie’.
“But what we have shown through our archives is that selfies have existed a long time.
“The young boy in Nairn probably used a family camera to take his picture, which would have been the new technology of the time.
“This is the earliest selfie we know of in Scotland and it will be fascinating to see if anyone out there can find a selfie to beat this one.”
Over 170,000 RCAHMS images have already been digitised and can be found here: http://www.rcahms.gov.uk/