First Photos

My love of old photographs has been well documented before on City Jackdaw. Indulging myself recently, I thought I would look for some of the earliest ones that I could find, some of which I now share with you. Any technical information you need you will have to google search for- the specifics are beyond me. I just appreciate them because of their significance and age.

The following photograph is the earliest surviving camera photograph, from around 1826. By Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, View from the Window at Le Gras.

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Not much chance of spotting a photobomber here is there?  Here is an enhanced version.

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What about the first photograph of a human?

‘Boulevard du Temple’ by Louis Daguerre, in 1838, is generally accepted as the earliest photograph of people. Taken of a busy street, the exposure time was at least ten minutes, so the moving traffic left no trace. Only the two men near the bottom left corner, one having his shoes polished by the other, stayed in one place long enough to be visible in the photograph.

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It is most likely that these two faceless, unknown people lived out the rest of their lives and died unaware of the role in history that they played.

Shadows in time.

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This next photograph is regarded as the first self-portrait. It was made by Robert Cornelius, in October or November 1839.On the back it read ‘The first light picture ever taken.’

I know in the past I did a post entitled A Sense of Absence.’ .  In that I talked about how I was haunted by old photographs, by the absence of resolution I felt when I looked upon the people in them, never knowing who they were, and what became of them.

For some reason this picture here had the opposite effect. Discovering the man’s name somehow lessened the image. Until I discovered the facts surrounding it, I was intrigued by this imposing, (then) mystery figure. He appears in equal measure part Byron/part Time Lord/part vampire.

Dark, dashing, and dead.

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This beautiful woman below is the subject of one of the oldest photographic portraits, made by Joseph Draper of New York in 1839 or 1840 of his sister, Anna Katherine Draper. Both demure and elegant, maybe a proto-type Elizabeth Taylor.

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Following on from that is this last photograph, from around 1900. It is one of the earliest photographs of someone caught sneezing.

It goes to show that you can wear all the fine lace to accentuate your air and grace that you want, but in that moment of nasal tickling helplessness you look just as ridiculous and undignified as the rest of us commoners do.

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2 thoughts on “First Photos

  1. I don’t know how I missed this one! Those photographs are incredible! I can see a romance writer looking at that photo of the Byronic dude and crafting a novel about him. And oh my! I’d hate to be forever captured in the middle of a sneeze. Love her dress though.


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