The history of the photograph is a relatively short time period — only 200 years. But we’ve come a long way since the first photograph was taken and the art form continues to make history even today. Here’s a look at some photography firsts.
1. First photo ever taken — 1826
An inventor named Joseph Nicéphore Niépce took the first ever photo in 1826, which shows the view outside of “Le Gras,” Niépce’s estate in Saint-Loup-de-Varennes, France. He achieved this using a process called heliography, which uses Bitumen of Judea, a naturally occurring asphalt, as a coating on glass or metal.
2. First photo of a person — 1838
In 1838, Louis Daguerre took this image of the Boulevard du Temple in Paris where he unintentionally recorded the first person in a photograph. The man down at the bottom left getting his shoes shined was the only person on the street that paused long enough to be recorded by his long exposure.
3. First self-portrait — 1939
Selfies have come a long way since Robert Cornelius took this quarter plate size daguerreotype made outside his family store back in 1839.
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4. First photo of the moon — 1940
On March 26, 1840, John W. Draper took the first ever photo of the moon from his rooftop observatory at New York University. You can see the moon’s shape in the mirror-reversed daguerreotype.
5. First hoax photograph — 1840
It didn’t take long for the first hoax photograph to emerge. In 1840, Hippolyte Bayard fought with Louis Daguerre over who was the “Father of Photography.” Supposedly Bayard developed his photography process first but had delayed his announcement and Daguerre claimed the moment. In response, Bayard took this self-portrait of his fake suicide, claiming that he killed himself because of the feud.
6. First photograph of a US president — 1843
John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States, was the first president to have his photograph taken. The daguerreotype was shot in 1843, several years after he left office. The first president to have his picture taken in office was James Polk, the 11th President in 1849.
7. First photo of the sun — 1845
French Physicists Louis Fizeau and Leon Foucault took the first ever photo of our sun using the Daguerreotype process on April 2nd, 1845. If you look at the photo closely, you can spot several sunspots.
8. First news photograph — 1847
Photojournalism started with this photograph in 1847. While the photographer’s name is unknown, his work has not. It’s considered to be the first ever photograph taken for news depicting a man being arrested in France.
9. First aerial photograph — 1860
James Wallace Black took the first aerial photograph from a hot air balloon on October 13, 1860. This aerial photograph depicts the town of Boston from 2,000 feet.
10. First color photo — 1861
Mathematical physicist, James Clerk Maxwell unveiled the first color photograph in 1861 of a three-color bow. The inventor of the SLR, Thomas Sutton, pressed the shutter button, but Maxwell is credited with the scientific process.
11. First photo of lightning — 1882
Curious if lightning really took on a zigzag shape like it was depicted in art, William Jennings captured the fury of the weather on his camera on September 2, 1882. He succeeded in showing that lightning was much more complicated than originally thought as it clawed across the stormy sky.
12. First tornado photograph — 1884
Shortly after the first photo of lightning came this tornado photograph. It was taken by a local fruit farmer near Garnett, Kansas on April 26, 1884.
13. First underwater portrait — 1899
Louis Marie Auguste Boutan invented his underwater camera in 1893 and after a few tests, finally took the first underwater portrait six years later. The photo is of oceanographer and biologist Emil Racovitza in Banyuls-sur-Mer in the South of France.
14. First photo of a fatal plane crash — 1908
Not long after the Wright Brothers’ historic 1903 flight, was the first fatal plane crash, and the incident was photographed on September 17, 1908. Aviator Thomas Selfridge of the Aerial Experiment Association with the US Army had the unfortunate distinction of becoming the first person to die in a powered plane. Orville Wright, who was also on board, survived.
15. First underwater color photo — 1926
National Geographic photographer Charles Martin and botanist William Longley took the first color underwater photograph in 1926. The image of a hogfish was taken in the Florida Keys.
16. First photo from space — 1946
The first photo from space was taken by a V-2 missile, which was launched in October, 24th of 1946. The camera itself was totally destroyed when it plummeted back to earth at a speed of 500 feet per second, but the film survived.
17. First digital photograph — 1957
The first digital photo was taken back in 1957; almost 20 years before Kodak invented the first digital camera. The photograph is a digital scan of a shot initially taken on film. The picture depicts Russell Kirsch’s son and has a resolution of 176×176.
18. First photo of a fully lit earth — 1972
‘The Blue Marble” photograph taken on December 7, 1972, is one of the most widely distributed photographic images in existence. The image was the first to show a fully illuminated Earth as the astronauts had the Sun behind them when they took the image.
19. The first photo taken on Mars — 1976
The first picture taken of Mars was taken on on July 20th, 1976 by Viking 1 after it touched down on the red plane. The photos were used to study the Martian landscape and structure.
20. First photo of a black hole — 2019
Photography history continues today. The first ever photo of a black hole was unveiled on 10 April 2019. The black hole at the core of supergiant elliptical galaxy Messier 87 was photographed by the Event Horizon Telescope.
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