13 Incredible First Photographs Paint An Interesting Picture Of Human History

OCTOBER 6, 2016

All you have to do if you really want to marvel at human progress when it comes to photography is scroll through your Instagram feed.

Once a privilege reserved for few, capturing life through a camera lens is now something most of us do on a daily basis. Seeing images of babies, pets, and incredible destinations is commonplace now, but when the first photograph was taken by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1827, the most mundane image is the one that changed history.

Known today as "View from the Window at Le Gras" this blurry photograph of a barley discernible view was a contemporary marvel. Let's take a walk through human history by checking out these amazing photographic firsts.

1. The First Photograph -- 1827

Niépce's "View from the Window at Le Gras" is considered the first-ever photograph and it was taken in Saint-Loup-de-Varennes, France. Although gritty, the image captures parts of a building and the photographer's surrounding estate.

2. The First Photograph of a Person -- 1838

The person in the lower lefthand corner of this image has gone down in history as the first ever human photographic subject. Louis Daguerre, for whom the famous Daguerreotype process was named, most likely took this from his apartment window.

3. The First Selfie -- 1839

Philadelphia-based photography enthusiast Robert Cornelius uncovered the lens, entered the frame, sat in place for one minute, and covered the lens again to capture what is now known as the first self-portrait photograph in history.

4. The First Hoax Photograph -- 1840

Although photographer Hippolyte Bayard had developed a photographic process before Daguerre, who is traditionally heralded as being the Father of Photography, he didn't release his findings quickly enough. Daguerre stole the spotlight by rolling out his own method, so as a response, Bayard released this photo of what appeared to be an image of him dead by drowning. This was, of course, a hoax.

5. The First Moon Photograph -- 1840

The first image of the moon was a Daguerrotype captured by John W. Draper. Because of poor storage, it is now pretty heavily damaged.

6. The First Photograph of an American President -- 1843

Our sixth president, John Quincey Adams, became the first American president to have his photo taken, but it was after he'd already left office.

7. The First Aerial Photograph -- 1860

Photographer James Wallace Black shot this photo from a hot air balloon over Boston at an altitude of 2,000 feet.

8. The First Color Photograph -- 1861

Thomas Sutton, who went on to invent the SLR camera, pressed the shutter button to take this photo of a tartan ribbon. The man behind the science that made it all possible, however, was a physicist by the name of James Clerk Maxwell.

9. First Photograph of a Battle in Progress -- 1870

This 1870 image is the first-known photograph of a battle in progress and it shows Prussian advancement toward French troops. Although the first war photographer was an American named Matthew Brady who'd begun working about two decades prior, the above image is still believed to be the first of an ongoing battle.

10. The First Landscape Photograph in Color -- 1877

Louis Arthur Ducos du Hauron, who is known as one of the first great innovators of color photography, took this shot of a scene in Southern France.

11. The First Photograph of a Tornado -- 1884

This tornado was immortalized in Kansas by a fruit farmer. To capture it, he used a box camera and snapped the photo from 14 miles away.

12. The First Photograph of Earth from Space -- 1950

A V-2 rocket snapped this shot from space in 1950. When it was released, copy surrounding the image was framed as "how our Earth would look to visitors from another planet coming in on a spaceship."

13. The First Digital Photograph -- 1957

The first digital photo came as a result of technological developments by Russell A. Kirsch that allowed graphics to be scanned to computer memory. This image is of his son, Walden.

While some of these images seem basic by today's standards, we probably wouldn't be sharing our lives on Instagram if they'd never been taken.


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