Photography: The First Human

It seems like everyone has a little digital camera; a capture button on their iPhones. Today, photography feels like a casual presence for most, something to take advantage of. In the olden days, specifically 1838, imagery was certainly not an ordinary feat, but quite an uncanny one!  In this year, the first ever sort-of “selfie” was taken. This historic picture of a man getting his shoes shined was not glamorous, or even intended. In fact, this photo was the first EVER to capture a human being.

One day in Paris, France, one of the first photographs ever, Louis Daguerre took the enigma of a camera out of a big, billy camera bag. While there, he climbed atop a roof, and took this haunting photograph: one that changed the history of art.

 

Can you see him? The ordinary 1800's person casually getting his shoes shined in the left-hand corner? Little did he know, he'd be the first man to ever be photographed.

Can you see him? The ordinary 1800’s person casually getting his shoes shined in the left-hand corner? Little did he know, he’d be the first man to ever be photographed.

 

If you can’t exactly see the man, (I couldn’t either) here’s a close-up. He’s having a very nice session with the shoe-shinner.

 

first man

 

Now, there is speculation to exactly who can be seen. Though this man is the most obvious human subject, there are dozens of other strange scenes to suggest human beings as well. Take these, for example.

This, believe it or not, could be a child's face looking out the window. You can find this window on the main building on the top-left window.

This, believe it or not, could be a child’s face looking out the window. You can find this window on the main building on the top-left.

On the other side of the street, this blur is possibly a child walking his dog.

On the other side of the street, this blur could possibly be a child walking his dog.

 

Quite a busy and happening street, Boulevard du Temple was the place to be in Paris at the time, and the street in this photograph. Though the truth looms, the photo itself looks completely deserted… why? For any photography people out there, the shutter speed was crazily and unavoidably slow, at 7 minutes!!! Cameras weren’t equip with manual settings… or any setting at all. Not yet.
(What am I talking about? Shutter speed, simply, is the amount of time a camera is set to, well, take the picture. It’s designed to let the light in and compose a specifically lighted picture. Most of your iPhone cameras have a shutter speed of around 1/125 of  a second, AKA the camera takes the picture for 1/125 of a second. This camera, instead of a fraction of a second, took  7 MINUTES to take this picture!!
Imagine how many things would go on in 7 minutes in a busy street like this… a lot, right? Cars, people, wind, commotion; all of these things were much too fast to read on a 7 minute spectrum. instead of a busy picture, we got a deserted one. The faster the shutter speed, the more you clearly capture; a 1/700 of a second shutter speed could capture all the commotion you want.
Interestingly enough, the only reason the man is visible in this picture is because he stayed put… for 7 minutes.)

The camera that took this photo was not digital, like we have today, but film: a completely different and classic medium of photography. This camera was not shiny and small like we have today, but probably shaped like a mere box with a hole to look into on top. It could not capture color yet, but it could illustrate an amazing scene like this.
On the other side of technicality, the photo above is kind of wacked. The ancient camera used to take it actually flipped the image itself! This is what the scene would have looked like to Daguerre: (Also above!)

 

Compare this image to the one before; triply, right?

Compare this backward image to the one before. Trippy, right?

 

Though this image is technically of poor quality and of no color, it is an astounding sliver of history. 1838, we now know because of this image, was the first time any human being was portrayed through photography – something unbelievably neat.


 

“I have seized the light. I have arrested its flight.”
LOUIS DAGUERRE, 1839

 

Condolences to this very interesting article, hence the information given today.

By: EJW

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