Looking for Sean McLachlan? He mostly hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog these days, but feel free to nose around this blog for some fun older posts!

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Thursday, 27 May 2010

The first photo of a person

This photo shows the Boulevard du Temple in Paris and was taken by Louis Daguerre in late 1838 or early 1839. While it isn't the first photograph (that honor went to Joseph Niepce in 1826) it's the first to show a person. Early photography had very long exposure times and thus it was hard to take photos of people. In fact, this photo took more than ten minutes and Daguerre didn't intend to capture any images of people at all. This busy street looks deserted because everyone passed by too quickly to make an impression on the emulsion. But if you look to the lower left you can see a man with his foot up. Apparently he's getting his shoes shined, and he stood still long enough to be captured on film.

This is a historically important shot and makes it into most studies of photography, but what most people seem to miss is that there are in fact two people in the photo. You can see the shoeshine boy as well, although he's not as clear. I've blown up the image below.

Poor people and children tend to be written out of history, and it's a shame that this kid, struggling to make a living and probably doomed to an early death in some nineteenth century tenement, has been ignored by later generations. So here's a bit of belated recognition. Sorry for being overlooked, kid. I hope that guy gave you a good tip!

The first image is courtesy Wikimedia Commons. If it isn't public domain by now then I don't know what is!

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