The First Photographs Ever Created

The First Photographs Ever Created

In our modern era which is dominated by smartphones and mirrorless digital cameras, it’s easy to take photography for granted. But there was a time, not too terribly long ago, when a single photograph was a major ordeal – when people had to sit or stand perfectly still for several minutes just to have their picture taken!

In my blog I have written about the history of landscape photography, the greatest art heists of all time, and have asked really important questions such as Is Photography Art, Is this the Peter Lik Tree and so many more. Today, we’re traveling back through time to experience the birth of photography and take a look at some of the very first photographs ever taken.

Imagine a world without Instagram, selfies, or even the concept of a “snapshot.” From the very first known photograph to some of the first photos we’ve taken from the surface of other worlds – we’re going on an exciting journey through the first photographs in history and providing some surprising insights along the way.

The First Known Photograph

We have to go back almost 200 years, back to 1826, to witness the very first photograph. Known as the “View from the Window at Le Gras,” this image was captured by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce using a process known as heliography. With an exposure that lasted several hours, Niépce captured the view from an upstairs window at his estate in Burgundy, France.

At a glance, you might mistake the photo for a charcoal sketch, but this humble image marks the beginning of an era. This photograph, despite its simplicity and fragility, embodies the revolutionary power of human innovation.

Today, pictures are everywhere – we see hundreds if not thousands on a daily basis, and can capture images with the greatest of ease thanks to the smartphones in our pockets.

The earliest saved photographic image (Heliograph on pewter plate) from 1826 or 1827 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, taken at Le Gras, France.

The First Color Photograph

A breezy thirty-five years later in 1861, the first color photograph arrived on the scene. Known as the “Tartan Ribbon,” this image was created by the famed Scottish physicist and mathematician, James Clerk Maxwell. Maxwell’s pioneering work in color theory and photography led him to the realization that by combining black and white images taken through red, green, and blue filters, one could achieve a full spectrum of colors by reconstituting the images together.

Maxwell’s breakthrough involved capturing three separate monochromatic images of a tartan ribbon, each taken with a different filter. When these images were then projected through the same red, green, and blue filters, they merged to produce a “full-color” image. This innovation helped lay the groundwork for many of the principles of color photography that we still use today.

The First Photograph of A Person

Captured by Louis Daguerre in 1838, the image titled “Boulevard du Temple” depicts a busy Parisian street in broad daylight, except there are only two static figures that are visible: a shoe-shiner and a client.

Because photography technology was still in its infancy, cameras were still encumbered by dramatically long exposure times. The daguerreotype process used for this photograph took several minutes, and during that time, most moving objects like passersby and carriages, were too swift to register on the plate. However, the man having his shoes shined remained still for long enough to leave a visible trace.

This remarkable photograph is the first known photograph of a person, yes, but it also hints at the fundamental changes this new form of art would bring to how humans perceive and document the world all around us.

The First Photograph of An Animal

A 177-year-old picture of a cow which is claimed to be the earliest photo ever taken of a living animal will go on display in a new exhibition in New York. The black-and-white image shows the animal resting beside a cart at a cattle market in Rome and has been dated to between April and July 1842. It was taken by French photographer Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey, who also captured early photos of Greece, Turkey and the Middle East on his Mediterranean trip.

The First Landscape Photography

According to records, the earliest known evidence of a landscape photograph was taken between the years of 1826 and 1827. It was an urban landscape photo taken by a French inventor by the name of Nicephore Niepce. It was noted this first exposure took him a mere 8 hours, so perhaps it made sense for him to choose a still subject. A few years later, around 1835, an English scientist named Henry Fox Talbot entered the scene and introduced innovations in photography.

The First Selfie Ever

American photographer Robert Cornelius, whose rough but certainly recognizable image, taken mere months after Louis Daugerre revealed his daguerrotype process in 1839, is undoubtedly the world’s first photographic self-portrait and may even be the first photographic portrait of any kind.

Cornelius learned about the new medium while working at his father’s lamp shop, where he specialized in silver-plating, among other tasks. A client hired him to produce a silver plate for a daguerrotype, and Cornelius became curious about the process.

The First Photograph of the Earth from Space

Yet another iconic image that profoundly changed the way we look at ourselves was the first photograph of the Earth from space. This historic moment occurred on October 24, 1946, when a U.S. Army Air Forces V-2 rocket, equipped with a robust 35mm motion picture camera, reached an altitude of 65 miles above the surface of the earth. The camera, pointed downward, captured a grainy, black-and-white image of our home planet, gleaming against the black cosmos.

This momentous photograph, taken during a time of post-World War II rocket experimentation, provided humanity with its initial glimpse of Earth from the vantage point of outer space. The image, while rudimentary by today’s standards, marked a critical step in the space stage and a growing awareness of the fragility and interconnectedness of our global environment.

As such, this image has become an enduring symbol of human curiosity, scientific progress, and photography’s power to change perspectives.

The First Photograph From Another Planet

In the decade following manned missions to the moon, scientists sent unmanned spacecraft to our other celestial neighbors. The first photograph from the surface of another planet was taken on Mars during NASA’s Viking 1 mission, which landed on the Red Planet in July of 1976.

After the Viking 1 lander successfully touched down on the Martian surface, it transmitted a series of high-resolution images, marking a historic first in interplanetary exploration, and photography history.

The photograph, in black and white, depicted a rocky and barren Martian landscape and would provide invaluable insights into the planet’s geology. This image, of course, was just the beginning, but it paved the way for numerous subsequent missions, rovers, and landers that have captured even more detailed and colored images of Mars, expanding our knowledge of the planet’s environment and potential for past – or future – life.

The First Photograph of A Black Hole

Even in 2019, we’re still having photography firsts, including the first photograph of a black hole. The image, which was made possible through the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration, portrays a supermassive black hole at the epicenter of M87, a galaxy approximately 55 million light-years from Earth.

In order to make this spectacular image, it required a network of radio telescopes from across the globe working in unison to create, essentially, an Earth-sized observatory. By combining the data collected from these telescopes, scientists were able to produce the first-ever image of the event horizon, which is the boundary beyond which nothing – not even light – can escape from the gravitational pull of the black hole.

This historic photograph helped confirm the existence of black holes while offering profound insights into the nature of these enigmatic cosmic behemoths, further expanding our understanding of the universe.

The First Photograph of A Japanese Maple Tree

Ok ok, maybe this isn't the first photograph of a Japanese Maple tree but it is obviously the BEST one. Or maybe it is one of these Japanese Maple Tree Photos? I don't know I'll leave that up to you to decide.

Photography Has Changed Our World Forever

Photography today is simply everywhere we look. We are bombarded by photographs hundreds if not thousands of times a day as we travel through time and space together. Photographs have the ability to bring us closer together, to educate us, to change a persons views, to invoke emotion and so much more. Nature Photography has catapulted an entire generation into a world spent in nature documenting the changes in light and beautiful moments that happen each day.

Posted in Art History.