Art History Lab

From Permanence to Selfies: The Oldest Photos in History

The First Picture Ever Taken in the World

A photograph is a medium that records an image through the use of a camera. It is intriguing to imagine how photography has evolved from exotic and unknown technology to one of the most popular mediums since its inception.

In this article, we’ll explore the first photograph ever taken, who took it, how it was taken, how it was rediscovered, and how it was eventually preserved.

The Oldest Photo Ever Taken

The first permanent photograph was taken in 1826 by French inventor Nicphore Nipce. The photo is known as View from the Window at Le Gras, and it captured the view from his studio in Burgundy, France.

This photograph was achieved through a process called heliography, which involved the use of a lithographic stone coated with bitumen of Judea, a type of tar. Nipce’s photo was unique in many ways, not just in its technical achievement but also in the fact that it was the first permanent photograph.

Prior to Nipce’s breakthrough, all photographs were temporary images taken using a camera obscura or other similar technology. Scientists and inventors experimented with various chemicals to make photographs permanent, but it wasn’t until Nipce’s invention that it was realized.

The Creator of the First Photograph: Nicphore Nipce

Nicphore Nipce was a man ahead of his time. Born in 1765 in France, he spent his life fascinated by science and technology.

Nipce was an inventor, a businessman, and an artist. His love for all three disciplines led him to perfect the process of heliography, which paved the way for modern photography.

Nipce’s invention had a significant impact on the world. It was the beginning of a new era for photography and allowed for the creation of permanent images.

Even today, almost 200 years later, the photograph Nipce took remains one of the most important examples of photographic innovation. Nipce’s Initial Photography Experiments

Nipce experimented with photography for many years before arriving at his groundbreaking discovery.

He used cameras obscura to capture his initial images. These images were fleeting and not permanent, as the photographic materials of the time could not retain the image for posterity.

Nipce finally achieved a permanent image by accident when he left a piece of paper coated with silver chloride and bitumen in his camera obscura for eight hours. Upon development, he discovered a latent image that had been burned into the paper, creating the very first permanent photograph.

Rediscovery and Preservation of the First Photo

Nipce’s photograph was almost lost to history. After his death in 1833, the photograph moved through many hands and was eventually forgotten.

It wasn’t until the 1950s that Helmut and Alison Gernsheim discovered the photograph in an antique shop in France. It was then found in Kodak’s research laboratory, where it was scanned, examined, and then preserved by the Getty Conservation Institute.

In conclusion, Nicphore Nipce’s creation of the first permanent photograph was a remarkable achievement that continues to impact our world today. His ingenuity and experimentation with photographic techniques laid the groundwork for all the advancements in photography that have occurred since.

While the first photograph ever taken may appear relatively simple by today’s standards, its significance can not be overstated, and it remains an essential piece of photographic history.

Other Important Categories of Oldest Photos

The first photograph ever taken, as we have seen, was a groundbreaking achievement that paved the way for modern photography. However, the first photograph ever taken wasn’t the only significant photograph taken in the early days of photography.

In this article, we will explore the Oldest Photos in different categories, the subjects of the photos, and their significance.

The First Photo With People

In 1838, French photographer Louis Daguerre took a photograph on the Boulevard du Temple in Paris, which featured the first-ever images of people, though all the people in the image were inadvertently erased due to the long exposure time. The photograph captured a busy street scene with traffic, pedestrians, and horses, but because of the long exposure time needed to capture the image, only stationary objects appear in the photograph.

Daguerre’s photograph was a significant milestone in the history of photography. It demonstrated the potential for photographing people, and as photographic technology improved, it became possible to capture moving people.

The First Photo of a Selfie

In 1839, the American photographer Robert Cornelius took the very first self-portrait photograph. Cornelius set up his camera in the back of his family’s store in Philadelphia, and he had to expose the photoreceptor for several minutes, attempting to capture himself in the first true photographic self-portrait.

Cornelius’s photograph featured his own likeness, facing the camera and standing still during the exposure, and it is claimed as one of the first selfies ever taken. Cornelius’ photograph was a significant moment in photographic history because it represented the new possibilities of self-documentation in photography.

Today, selfies are a common feature in social media, connected photography to self-presentation and identity formation.

The First Photo of Drinking

Another significant image from the early days of photography is a photograph of men drinking, taken in 1844 by Scottish photographer David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson. The photograph captures a group of men drinking beer and having a good time, a scene that had never been seen before in a photograph.

Hill and Adamson’s image was significant because it demonstrated that photography could capture social activity and that these types of images could be used to document everyday life, culture, and customs, especially in Scotland, which is famous for its beer and drinking culture.

The Oldest Photo Hoax

Not all early photographs were genuine. In 1840, French photographer Hippolyte Bayard created a photographic self-portrait which included himself appearing as a drowned man.

An inscription on the back of the photograph called the event “The consequences of not having received any subsidies.” Bayard was protesting that he wasn’t given credit for his photographic invention, which he called a “daguerrotype.”

While Bayard’s photograph was a fake, he catalyzed a long-held debate about who deserves credit for the invention of photography. Bayard’s self-portrait was significant in demonstrating how photography could also be used as a medium for personal protest and political commentary.

In conclusion, the history of photography is filled with important and groundbreaking images that have shaped the way we see the world. The oldest photos, in particular, have played a fundamental role in the development of photographic technology, documenting everyday life, and providing us with a glimpse into the past.

The first photos of people, selfies, drinking, and even hoaxes all serve as key points of interest, providing us with insights into the inventiveness, creativity and playfulness of early photographers. In conclusion, the history of photography is not just the story of the first photograph taken but also the journey and milestones reached through various photographs in several categories.

The oldest photos of people, selfies, drinking, and even hoaxes all have significance in providing us with insights into the inventiveness, creativity, and playfulness of early photographers. These photographs serve as key points of interest, shaping the world of photography and how we view our own lives.

From the first permanent photograph to the first photograph of people, these images remain important historical documents that provide us with a glimpse into the past. Importantly, they remind us of the importance of perseverance in the face of challenges and how creativity can thrive through invention and experimentation.

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