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First selfie? David Liam Kyle and his 'Long Arm Shot'

Local photographer David Liam Kyle tells us the history of what he termed the "Long Arm Shot" 33 years ago.
Long Arm Shot atop the Terminal Tower

CLEVELAND -- It wasn't called a "selfie" back then, but it sure looks like one.

Local photographer David Liam Kyle tells us the history of what he termed the "Long Arm Shot" 33 years ago.

What's the explanation?

"Many people have staked claim to the fact that they have invented the selfie. (I consider a selfie a photo taken of yourself while you hold the camera) By the way, I would never call it a "selfie" because it was never about me. It was about where I was, or who I was with... I call it my "Long Arm Shot". When I first started shooting this in the early eighties, I used a NIKON 35mm film camera with a 20mm lens. With the older cameras, you needed long arms and big hands to create this photo. Since I am 6'9", I had no problem. I'm not claiming to have invented the selfie, but I do know that I'm glad I took a few "Long Arm Shots" to document some great memories."

How did this come about?

"My first Long Arm Shot was taken in 1981 while covering the Strongsville Air Show,"" he said. "Tom Krukemeyer, the show organizer, asked me if I was interested in going up in an airplane to photograph the historic bi-plane from the air. I climbed into the passenger seat of one of their small planes and we started toward the runway. Since both steering wheels move forward, backward and side to side, the pilot was concerned that my legs were too long to allow room for the controls to move freely. We started heading down the runway and I could sense the pilot was getting a bit nervous. As we accelerated for takeoff, getting even more nervous, the pilot energetically expressed his concern again that he might have problems with my legs in the way. "Then don't do anything stupid" I quickly responded. He was very relieved as he slowed down and took us back to the hangar. Once we returned Tom Krukmeyer says "I have a plane that I'm sure you'll fit into." The AT6 Fighter Trainer plane was on display that day from the Historical Society. As Tom was talking to the pilot, a crew of ten volunteers were shining the plane. It looked impressive to say the least. Tom introduces me to the pilot, and as we shake hands he says "If you're ready to go...hop in." He didn't have to tell me twice."

"While I was getting into the cockpit, I was thinking that my father would never believe I was flying in a AT6. My Dad was a Marine combat veteran who received three purple hearts during WWII. He always loved these old fighter planes and even mentioned that they saved him in combat more than once. We start rolling down the runway. I'm buckled in. Listening to the pilot through headphones, I can hear and talk to him sitting directly in front of me. "Are you ready?" comes through my headset... As soon as I say yes, I hear "Here we go." The powerful engine roars to life and we take off in seconds. I've never felt so safe in an airplane, feeling the power of that engine and knowing I have a veteran pilot in control. That AT6 was so powerful, it could have taken off in my driveway. As we are flying around, I see several golf courses from the sky. I knew my Dad was playing golf somewhere today, as he did every weekend. I was thinking..."Man, if Dad could see me now, he wouldn't believe it". I needed some evidence, so I shot photos of the pilot with a 20mm lens on my Nikon camera. I then turned the camera around and took a couple shots of myself while we were in the air. I also took photos of the bi-plane as we circled above. After we landed, I handed my camera to one of the crew members and asked that they take my picture as I exited the cockpit.

VIEW : Long Arm Shots gallery

This was the early eighties, the old days before cell phones. I had to wait until I got home that evening to call my Dad. I say hello, but before I can say anything more, he says to me "Dave...you are not going to believe what I saw today when I was playing golf...two old planes...looked like they were dog fighting". So I say "Dad, I was in one of those!" But he didn't say anything. I was disappointed that he didn't believe me. Although I can understand why, I was one of eight children and I'm sure he's heard some whopper stories from my older brothers over the years. I'm also notorious for playing practical jokes. I didn't even try to convince him, just told him I'd be over Monday with the photos."

"After finishing work at the newspaper, I print up several black and white images from my flight. Photos of the AT6 Fighter Trainer plane, wide angles of the pilot in flight, the biplane in flight, my Long Arm Shot in the Cockpit, and myself getting out of the plane. I walked in my folks house and see my Dad sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee. I just hand him a bunch of 8x10's... he looks at the pictures and gets a big grin on his face. immediately he picks up the phone and starts dialing. "Hey Joe, you know those old planes that were flying around Saturday while we were golfing? My boy Dave was in one of them! Yea...really, he even has photos!" Not sure where those original photos went, as my Dad passed away a few years later in 1984 from cancer. I will never forget his face as he viewed my first "Long Arm Shot."

I've taken hundreds of thousands of photos over my photojournalism career, and I've never thought about organizing a "Long Arm Shot" collection. Many of the Long Arm Shot negatives are filed away with other assignments, and I gave most of the prints away to the people in the photo. I did, however, save a few of my favorites that you might enjoy.

The photos is the gallery were taken between twenty five to thirty years ago. A lifetime for many. I hate to say my new friends can't even recognize me. They all say..."is that you?"

RELATED : David Liam Kyle Photography

"I took all Long Arm Shot photos with my left hand because I could hold the camera more securely and press the shutter release easily with my thumb. Since the the camera was completely manual I would set the exposure ahead of time. While holding my Nikon FM2 in my right hand I would extend my left arm in front of me and focus on my hand. Then switch camera to my left hand, extend my arm, aim and click the shutter. Easy!

MORE : See more David Liam Kyle

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