13 September 2010

A Photograph of Philosophical Importance

Take a look at this photograph.

At first it might appear slightly interesting, a black and white photo, clearly from many decades ago. But this photograph is special because of its timing. This was taken way back in 1838, by Louis Daguerre as he was experimenting with the process to record images. It is of the Boulevard du Temple in Paris, and is one of the first photographs ever taken. Now the streets of Paris were not as empty as they appear here. Early photographs had to be exposed for several minutes (over ten for this one) to collect enough light, so anything that is not completely still for that time becomes a blur, and anything moving faster than a snail is invisible. Notice how blurry the trees are compared to buildings or streetlamps. This street was probably busy, but the moving people and carriages blended into the background. Except in the lower left. Let me zoom in. 


A shoeshine and his customer were still enough to be captured in this photograph. That makes this the earliest photograph of a person. Let me repeat that: Above is the very first photograph of a human being. Just something to think about.



  1. This article is nice, I enjoyed reading it. What about 'View from the window', is that not the first photograph of human? just curious....

  2. Thanks Arvind. View from the Window was the first known photograph, but it does not show a person. With good reason, because it took 9.5 hours to expose, a person would have had to stay in one place for that entire time.

  3. I really like these old photos. Same for the Lumiere movies. There's just something awesome about how cumbersome the process of making them, as well as the roughness of the final product.

    It's kind of morbid, but I wonder if there are any human-shaped scorch marks from a volcano or some sort of early explosive somewhere. While not technically a photo, that would also be impressive. I'm pretty sure the model would prefer the camera though, even if it took 9.5 hours.

  4. Marianne Van Remoortel27 October, 2010 02:45

    Take a look at the upper left window of the big house on the right. Could that small white blob be a child watching the photograph being taken?