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At first glance, it doesn't seem that remarkable: An old black-and-white scene of a strangely deserted city, smudged in places by some primitive photographic process.
But this image, taken in Paris, France, in 1838, is believed to be the earliest known photograph featuring a person.
Look in the photo's lower left corner and you'll see a man getting his boots cleaned on the sidewalk. The boot-cleaner is there too, although he is harder to spot.
It was taken by Louis Daguerre, the French photographer famous for pioneering the daguerreotype, an early type of photo produced on a silver plate or a silver-covered copper plate.
According to Retronaut's Amanda Uren, the exposure time for the image was around seven minutes. The street appears deserted because while the two human figures were relatively still, other pedestrians and horse-drawn carriages were moving too fast to register on the plate.
The photo shows the Boulevard du Temple, a then-fashionable area of shops, cafés and theaters.
The two people on the sidewalk are the most recognizable human figures in the photo, although Uren points out that a detailed examination reveals other possible people on a bench and in a window of the building in the foreground.
Generally accepted as the earliest surviving photographic portrait image of a human ever produced is the approximately quarter plate daguerreotype by Robert Cornelius [1809–93], a head-and-shoulders [self-]portrait, facing front, with arms crossed, dating from 1839 [Oct. or Nov.]. [LC-USZC4-5001 DLC]. Written on the paper backing is "The first light picture ever taken. 1839." The photograph, now at the Library of Congress in Washington DC, was taken outside his place of business on 8th Street between Market and Chestnut, in Philadelphia.
This image of Dorothy Catherine Draper (1807–1901) is a copy of the earliest surviving photograph of a woman. John William Draper (1811–82), professor of chemistry at the University of New York, built his own camera and made this portrait of his sister in early 1840 (notwithstanding the inscription), after a 65-second exposure. The image is from the Westchester Archives.
The earliest-born person to be photographed was probably John Adams, who was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, on 22 January 1745, the son of Captain Thomas Adams and Lydia Chadwick. A shoemaker, he died on 26 February 1849, in Harford, Pennsylvania, aged 104, having made himself a new pair of shoes in his final year. A photographic copy of a daguerreotype (the whereabouts of the original being unknown) is in the possession of the Susquehanna County Historical Society. This image is from Taylor (2013).
There is as yet no certainty as to the earliest-born woman to be photographed, but a popular contender at present appears to be Hannah Stilley Gorby (born about 1746, died 1840–1850). The original daguerreotype has been missing for some years, but this copy was printed in Alva Gorby's 1936 book The Gorby Family, History and Genealogy. NB most public member trees on Ancestry give her year of death as 1840, which would mean the individual in the photograph is almost certainly not Hannah Stilley Gorby. Alva Gorby's book merely says it is "not known" where she died or was buried; although the portrait is indeed reproduced, it is not referred to in the text as a daguerreotype (though it certainly looks photographic).
originally posted by: Aleister
a reply to: DjembeJedi
With all these firsts I wonder what the first sports photograph was? The first pornography photograph? And the first photo of a bird in flight? (maybe it was a photo of all three at once!)