Meet the Man to Blame for Selfies

TCA 2014: Jean Pigozzi has traveled the decades taking pictures with fancy people

The Esquire Network has found the man who takes credit for inventing the selfie.

Jean Pigozzi isn’t responsible for that horrible phrase, and probably wasn’t the first person to take his or her own picture. But he is a forerunner in the practice of latching onto celebrities and persuading them pose for pictures you take yourself.

Also read: Susan Sarandon and Jimmy Kimmel Recreate ‘Thelma & Louise’ Selfie (Video)

“I have a very long arm,” he explained at a Television Critics Association panel Monday. “If you have a very long arm, it’s easier to do it.”

He explained the appeal of the selfie: “People try to get autographs from movie stars and all that. But that doesn’t mean you really met them.”

In his new Esquire Network show, “My Friends Call Me Johnny,” he has conversations with celebrities including Michael Douglas and Martha Stewart, and shows off pictures he’s taken with people like Clint Eastwood, Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart. (He is seen above taking a selfie with his executive producer, Joel Silver.)

Also read: Stephen Colbert Mauls New York’s Selfies-With-Tigers Ban (Video)

“I’m not a groupie,” he said. “I’m not a fan. I’m interested in successful people because I learn from them. They’re more fun than boring people. … So usually successful people have a more interesting life, they have better stories to tell, they eat better food, they look better, so I’d rather hang out with them than somebody working in the post office or a mortician.”

And how does he gain access to these successful people? It helps to be born into success.

While he jokes that he grew rich by getting a ten cent royalty on every selfie taken, in fact he’s the heir to a French auto fortune. Asked what he does, exactly, he described himself as a tech investor and art collector.

Though the promotional materials for his show call him the “inventor of the selfie,” Pigozzi will only say “it’s possible” that he is, in fact, the selfie’s originator.

“One of the first ones I did was in the parking lot of the Beverly Hills Hotel with Dolly Parton, and I think it was in 1975,” he said.

He said the first famous person he ever met was Andy Warhol, who impressed him with how down to earth he was. The most interesting was Steve Jobs.

Any stock tips? asked one reporter, not an heir to an auto fortune.

“Apple,” said Pigozzi.