FREEHOLD – An innovative library and archives Exhibit, “The Original Selfie” will continue on display at the Monmouth County Historical Association after its Grand Opening at the Weekend in Old Monmouth last weekend.

The exhibit, designed, planned and coordinated by the Association’s library staff, focuses on the amateur photographs taken by A.J. Chambers, a druggist whose pharmacy was located at 27 Wallace St., Red Bank, during the late 1800 and early 1900s. Chambers was an amateur photographer who used the new dry plate photo process which replaced the collodion wet plate process in the 1870s.  In addition to orienting himself so well with photographic methods, Chambers also took great pride in arranging his subjects and backgrounds in a manner that exhibited “accuracy and cleanliness…”  He also used a ball attached to a release and a long connector so he could set the camera, then get himself into the scene before snapping the photo….the original selfie.

Chambers’ work showed life as it was in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including one very unusual photo of a group of friends, among them a female with her long hair down around her shoulders, unusual for the era. Other photos depict his wife, Cora, and their daughter, Ailene.

“I find the exhibit exciting and interesting because it shows how Chambers created a scene and was an amazing photographer,” said Laura Poll, library archivist who put the collection together with library assistant Debbie Carmody.  “It’s fascinating how he got himself into the photos and set the scene so well. He was a pharmacist, yet he apparently loved photography as well.”   

Some of the photos on display in the exhibit were taken from glass plates of Chambers, and re-printed in a larger size for a display many years go for the First Merchant’s Bank of Asbury Park, Carmody said.

The exhibit, with a showcase on the first floor of the Court St. museum building, and more work in a second floor display, also includes equipment and information from professional photographer Frank Cottrell, who used the wet place process for his works. The exhibit includes a camera used by Cottrell as well as several books on photography and examples of early photographic works.

“The Monmouth County Historical Association is proud to be able to present yet one more aspect of how life was lived in Monmouth County in earlier eras,” Association Executive Director Evelyn C. Murphy, Ph.D, said. “This exhibit not only shows how photography has advanced through the centuries, but also shows that no matter how much some things change, they always stay the same in an entertaining way,” she added, referring to the ‘selfies’ taken by Chambers.

The exhibit will remain on display at the Museum at least until June, Murphy added. The Museum is open from 10a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, at 70 Court St. Admission is $5 for adults, $2.50 for senior citizens, and free to Association members. Membership, which is available on line at monmouthhistory.org or at any of the five historic homes and the museum, offers free admission to all of the association’s properties.