Earliest known photograph of a person

Thursday, June 02, 2011
Detail of Boulevard du Temple showing a man
Sometime in 1838 or 1839 Louis Daguerre took a photograph called Boulevard du Temple. It was a picture of a street in Paris, and it required an exposure of over 10 minutes. Due to the length of the exposure the moving traffic is not visible. However, in the lower left-hand corner you can distinctly see the silhouette of a man. He stood in position as he got he boots polished. It is the earliest known photo of a person.

You can view the entire picture at How to Be a Retronaut which has an applet that allows you to pan and zoom the photo. Some viewers say you can see other people in the picture. There are some artifacts in the film that might be people, but none are so clear as the man getting his shoes shined. 

Because of the empty street with only the single blurry image of a man, to me it is a slightly eerie picture. His solitary presence reminds me of one of those old Twilight Zone episodes where an antisocial person ends up cursed and living in an empty world.

Another early picture, this one from 1848, shows two men standing next to the Ohio River in Cincinnati. You can view that picture and read about it at Very early photographic images of humans discovered


KurtP said...

That Twilight Zone idea was the first thing I thought of when I saw it.

Then I wondered if we wee going to see Elizabeth Montgomery in battle dress....

ambisinistral said...

The only thing that ruined the Twilight Zone vibe is that the old Paris street looked nothing like the back lot Rod sterling's heroes were always stranded in.