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A Tour of Photographic History in 13 Images

Now almost everyone has a sophisticated camera in their pockets, able to record any moment in time with the simple click of a button. But this is a very recent development. For almost all of human history, let’s remember that every past moment was lost forever, only living in drawings, painting, descriptions and fallible memories. Yet, in 1827, everything changed with the first successful photograph in history. Take a trip with us far into the past to see the very first photographs: 
Click on images to enlarge
1. The First Photograph Ever (1827)
Taken by Joseph Nicephore Niepce, this haunting snap is known as ‘View from the Window at Le Gras’. This first foray into the new art/technology of photography caused a great sensation. Most thought photographs were a fantasy, so for us, it is difficult but not impossible to appreciate the wonder it caused. Though hard to make out, this image captures the photographer’s surrounding estate and parts of a building. 
2. The First Photograph of a human being (1838)
This image was taken by one of the fathers of photography, Louis Daguerre (after which the Daguerreotype technique was named). It is a quite remarkable window into what was, in fact, a very busy high street. However, since the exposure had to continue for many minutes, all the moving cars were not recorded, only stationary objects. Thus, one man in the left corner is seen having his boots polished by a special machine. He was motionless long enough for his image to be recorded forever. 
3. The First Self-Portrait or ‘Selfie’ (1839)
Robert Cornelius was a Philadelphia man with a passion for the new technology and created the first self-portrait with it. When you consider that painters would often have their subjects seated for hours, the one minute Robert sat for this is really nothing. What a great leap had been made! Can you see the excitement and perhaps even impatience in his eyes?
4. The First Photographic Hoax (1840)
This is a very strange image indeed, the first of a whole host of successive hoaxes which have plagued photography for decades. Taken by photographer Hippolyte Bayard, the Frenchman plays dead before his own camera – for no apparent reason.
5. The First Moon Photograph (1840)
Taken by John W. Draper, this first shot of the moon in all history has unfortunately been damaged due to poor storage.
6. The First Photograph of a US President (1843)
The first president to consent to the new honor of being photographed was America’s sixth political leader, John Quincey Adams (1767-1848), a man old enough to have been born before both the French Revolution and the War of Independence. However, he was not the sitting president at the time this photograph was taken.
7. The First Aerial Photograph (1860)
This lovely image was taken over Boston by James Wallace Black while riding a hot air balloon at 2,000 feet. What an exciting age it must have been!
8. The First Color Photograph (1861)
The technology that made color photography possible was pioneered by James Clerk Maxwell. This image, however, was actually captured by Thomas Sutton. What you can see here is an appropriately colorful tartan ribbon. Perhaps this was the most colorful thing to hand. When you think about it, they probably only thought of a suitable object to test their theory right at the last moment.
9. The Battle Photograph (1870)
War photography had been going for some two decades already when Matthew Brady took this photograph, yet this is still thought to be the first visual evidence of an ongoing battle. What we can see here is the Prussian army advancing towards their French rivals during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). This conflict resulted in Germany becoming unified under Prussian dominance, thanks to Prussia’s influential leader, Otto von Bismarck. 

Soon, the unification of Germany would change the world forever with two terrible world wars. Yet, at the time of this picture, this was all many years in the future. 
10. The First Colored Landscape Photograph (1877)
How apt that the first color landscape is of a luscious scene in the south of France! This was actually taken by one of color photography’s most important pioneers, Louis Arthur Ducos du Hauron. It’s wonderful to think of all the time and skill these photographer-scientists spent on their passion, and we, their posterity, are reaping the benefits.
11. The First Tornado Photograph (1884)
Taken from 14 miles away, this is the first recorded image of a Kansas tornado. Taken by a local fruit farmer with a box camera, it's a very poignant photo of nature at its most destructive.
12. The First Earth from Space Photograph (1950)
When people were first shown this photo, taken by a V-2 rocket, they were told that this is what Earth would look like to ‘visitors from another planet coming in on a spaceship.’ Somehow I doubt they would put it like that today, but it is certainly a marvelous thought.
13. The First Digital Photograph (1957)
With the rapid strides made by computer technology, Russell A. Kirsch was able to achieve a digital first. Here we can see his dear son, Walden. The first of many youngsters captured and saved on a computer by his loving and proud parents!
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