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September 12, 2016

Earl Brooks’ Photographs: Selfies ca. 1902

Earl Brooks’ Photographs: Selfies ca. 1902

 By: David Heighway, Hamilton County Historian

selfie-aWe’ve been looking at some of the photographs that Earl Brooks took as a high school student at the turn of the last century. Now we’re going to look at one of his favorite subjects – himself.

Like many young people today, Brooks enjoyed using new technology to take self-portraits. Granted, the mechanics of doing this back then were somewhat different. There were no timers for mechanical shutters and selfie sticks wouldn’t have worked. Instead, he had to secure the camera to a solid spot, attach a string to the shutter lever on the camera, and then figure out a way to pull the string indiscreetly.

There are a variety of self-portraits in the collection of photos owned by the Hamilton County Historical Society and put online by HEPL. In five of them, Brooks is holding a string that occasionally can be seen to run all the way back to the camera.

The settings that he chose for this are very similar to the settings that people use today. He is picnicking with his friends here , hanging out with his baseball team here, or fooling around in the high school science lab here. In two photos, he wanted to show himself in his high school track uniform here and in his letter sweater here. However, there was no way to hold the string unobtrusively in his hand. He solved the problem by tying the string to his ankle and moving his leg to snap the shutter.

The Brooks Collection is a fun look at the way that a high school student would have looked at his world over a century ago. In some ways, it wasn’t much different than young people do today.