Selfies lie deep in the history of photography

Ryan Eggold, from left, Megan Boone, Parminder Nagra and Diego Klattenhoff pose for a selfie at the Television Academy Presents an Evening with "The Blacklist" April 2, 2014, in New York. Charles Sykes/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images

Everywhere you look, people seem to have their arms stretched, their smartphone turned around, and they're smiling for the camera.

Though the smartphone has made the selfie easy to distribute, the inclination to turn the camera on oneself lies deep in the history of photography, "CBS This Morning" contributor Lee Woodruff reports.

We do it when we travel. Celebrities do it on the red carpet. Presidents and politicians do it too. Visitors to St. Peter's Square have been known to ask his holiness, Pope Francis, for a quick self-snap.

There's even a song written entirely about the art of the selfie.

Christopher Phillips, the curator at the International Center for Photography, said the selfie is not a new phenomenon.

"If you look back, people have been making self-portrait photographs since almost the day that photography was invented back in 1839," Phillips told CBS News.

Around the world, selfies are everywhere, but they are not always welcome. Sometimes they're a sneaky way promote products. At the Tour de France in July, fans seeking a selfie posed inches from cyclists, causing angry rebuttals from the athletes.

A selfie taken by a tourist at the Auschwitz concentration camp this summer sparked Internet outrage. It appears there are no boundaries when it comes to selfie opportunities.

"Selfies have really almost totally eroded the boundary between your private life and public life, the Internet," Phillips said.

The term selfie first appeared in an online post from Australia in 2002, but this 21st century photographic genre has roots in the history of the self-portrait. By 2013, our use of the term selfie increased 17,000 percent over the previous year, prompting the Oxford English Dictionary to declare it the word of the year.

"An enabler of selfies is Andy Warhol," Phillips said. "Back in the early '60s, when Warhol started to get commissions to make portraits of New Yorkers, he had the idea of sending them with a bag of quarters to Times Square to visit the photo booth machines."

The Internet is filled with selfie-stars: a Texas man named himself the selfie king and a 19-year-old in Montreal has taken a selfie every day for seven years, aging before the camera.

For true devotees to the genre, you may want to buy yourself a "selfie stick," an attachment for your smartphone - increasing your chance at a perfect shot.

"If you have a smartphone, you are a photographer, and you are going to be making selfies without even thinking about it," Phillips said.

Though technology has simplified the modern-day selfie, the urge to capture ourselves at a moment in history seems to be one of human nature's original desires.

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