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The History of Photography Is Rich | Let’s Look Into the First Picture Ever Taken

24.03.2021
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History of Photography

When we think of photographs, it is easy to forget that there was a time when they didn’t exist. Nowadays it is so easy for us to take a photo as our phones have the ability to do so. This wasn’t always the case. When we look back to the first picture ever taken and compare it to where we are today, we have come a far way. There have been so many advancements in the world of photography that have created more options and opportunities for photographers’ practices. Today we are going to take a stroll down memory lane and draw our attention to the very first photograph that was ever captured.

The Very First Photograph

The Very First Photograph

So, when was the first photograph ever taken? Well, the photo I am about to share with you may or may not be the first photo ever taken. There may have been photos captured before this one, however, this is the first photo to survive all of these years. So, we will consider it to be the first photo ever taken while keeping this information in mind. The year 1826 is when the first photograph is known to be taken. Now being the year 2021, 195 years have passed by since this photo was captured. Knowing the first photograph date is interesting the more you think about it. 195 years is a long time, yet simultaneously not a long time. You may be wondering who took the first photograph. Well, allow me to tell you. The photographer who captured the first photograph in 1826 went by the name Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. Nicéphore was known as a French inventor, being the pioneer and inventor of photography. To be the person who captured what is known to be the world’s first photograph is extremely impressive. Now that we know when the first photo was taken, and who captured it, you may be asking, “Where was the first photograph taken?”. As we now know, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce was French. As you may have assumed, the first photograph was captured in France, Saint-Loup-de-Varennes to be exact.

Technique Used To Capture the First Photograph

To capture the first photo in history, Joseph used a technique called heliography. If you break apart this word, heliography, it has quite a beautiful meaning. ‘Helios’ meaning sun, and ‘graphein’ means writing. To think of this technique as capturing writing from the sun is really quite a lovely image. This is a complicated process that is far less easy to comprehend than that of the modern-day digital photography or film methods.

More Details About the First Known Photograph

Let’s talk a little more about the first photo taken in more detail. When you first take a look at this photograph, you probably wouldn’t consider it to be a photo. I say this because it really does not look anything like a modern-day photo. Because of the technique used, heliography, this photo is not on what we would consider being ‘normal’ photo paper. Rather, this photo is presented on a naturally occurring asphalt called Bitumen of Judea. The photo is quite dark, so much so that you may not even be able to decipher what is captured in the image. The image that Joseph Nicéphore Niépce captured is the view outside of “Le Gras”. “Le Gras” is located on Niépce’s estate in Saint-Loup-de-Varennes, France. Although the image is quite dark and hard to decipher, it is still quite beautiful to have the first photograph ever taken to still be existing, even after 195 years.

Photos From the Earliest Photograph Collection

Five More Photos From the Earliest Photograph Collection

Although recognizing the oldest photograph in existence is important, I also wanted to shine a light on 5 more photographs that were taken around the same time. Although not the very first, these photos still carry a lot of history within them as this was such an experimental phase for photographers. On top of photographers being experimental, there were a lot of things to be photographed that have never been before. Because of this, there are a lot of “firsts” during this period of photography. Read this list to better comprehend what I mean.

View of Boulevard du Temple in Paris, 1838

View of Boulevard du Temple in Paris, 1838

So Joseph Nicéphore Niépce took the first known photograph, but who captured the first photo of a person? Well, in the year 1938, shortly after the first photo was taken, Louis Daguerre captured an image of two people. This was an unintentional act. Due to the extremely slow exposure time of cameras during this time, a person getting their shoes shined ended up in this image. This image was only supposed to be of the View Of Boulevard du Temple in Paris, France, however, the people are a beautiful addition.

A Self Portrait, 1939

first self portrait

A year following the first photo captured of a person, photographer Robert Cornelius captured the first self-portrait image to ever exist. This self-portrait is considered to be a daguerreotype. Daguerreotypes were considered to be the first-ever ‘successful’ photographic process that was used. 1939 was the first year that daguerreotypes came to be, so it seems as if Robert Cornelius took advantage of this opportunity and took the first self-portrait ever. Daguerreotypes are images that are captured on a silvered copper plate. Once again, making it quite clear that the photography we know today has come quite a long way.

The First Image of the Sun, 1845

The First Image of the Sun, 1845

This photograph may be my favorite of all of the firsts. In the year 1845, two physicists captured the first-ever image of the sun. Louis Fizeau and Leon Foucault thought they would try capturing a daguerreotype of the sun and in my opinion, were quite successful. When you look at the image it may seem to be a near-white circle on top of a black background. When you know it is the sun you begin to realize how incredible this simple photo truly is.

The First Photo Using Colour, 1861

The First Photo Using Colour, 1861

Between the time the first image was captured in 1826, to the year 1860, no one had captured any images using color. In the year 1861, physicist James Clerk Maxwell brought colors into the image. This was quite an exciting achievement as for the past 34 years all the photos taken were in black and white. This scientific process that was discovered by James Clerk Maxwell is the reason we have the ability to capture colored photos today.

The First-Ever Underwater Portrait, 1899

The First-Ever Underwater Portrait, 1899

The last firsts of the photos I am going to introduce to you today is the first-ever underwater photo. This underwater portrait was captured by Louis Marie Auguste Boutan. The image is of a famous oceanographer and biologist named Emil Racovitza. This photograph is amazing to me because I assumed underwater photography was a more recent invention. The fact that the ability to capture photos underwater began 122 years ago is something I would have never assumed possible.

A World of Firsts

Can you imagine being alive during a time where every achievement was the first to be achieved? Nowadays, many things have already been discovered. Though, it is because of these discoveries years ago that we have been able to continue making advancements in all aspects of life. Because of these ‘first’ photographs, photography has been able to move forward into a world that these initial physicists and photographers may have never imagined possible. The history of photography is really quite interesting. Truly the transition that has occurred over the past 195 years is incredible.

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