Thursday, November 17, 2011

Someone Had To Be First!

      Yesterday Mrs. Chatterbox, our son Colin and I made it home from Isla Mujeres. A screw-up in Dallas had us standing in line with five hundred other passengers trying to make it past two customs agents. By the time we were cleared our connecting flight to Portland was long gone. We spent the night in Las Vegas and arrived home at about five p.m.
     The sunset wedding was gorgeous and you can check it out here. Laurie is my delightful sister-in-law and she’s organizing the hundreds of pictures taken at the wedding, not including the thousands of images snapped by the professional wedding photographer.
     This got me wondering: we know so many important names in history, the first human to set foot on the moon, the first person to fly solo over the Atlantic or the first intrepid souls to reach the poles or scale Mount Everest, but who was the first person to have his picture taken?
     Having our picture snapped is an occurrence we all take for granted. You don’t need to be a famous fashion model to be photographed repeatedly. We’re photographed at the DMV, entering banks and convenience stores, enjoying ourselves at sporting events, pausing at stop lights and often just walking down the street, which many see as a violation of privacy. Conservative estimates place the number of photographs taken by year 2000 at an amazing 85 billion—an incredible 2,500 photos per second, and experts believe we are rapidly closing in on 3.5 trillion photographs. But, as in all things, when it comes to having your picture taken someone had to be first.
     In 1838 Louis Daguerre, the father of modern photography, tired of taking still-life pictures of fruit and plaster casts in the corner of his studio, aimed his bulky contraption out the window to shoot a photograph of bustling Boulevard du Temple below. He held his camera as steady as he could for ten minutes, the amount of time required for an exposure, and his arms must have ached when he finally set down his cumbersome camera. The picture Daguerre later developed showed the boulevard just as he’d seen it. Well, not exactly; the buildings and trees were perfectly recorded, but where were the well-dressed couples promenading down the street? Where were the bustling carriages and prancing horses? What happened to the street peddlers showing their wares to young dandies out for a leisurely stroll? 
     Daguerre’s picture took so long to develop that all moving things disappeared from the scene, as if they hadn’t been there at all. Or so it seems. If you look more closely at the bottom left hand corner of the image a man stands on the otherwise empty street. Who is he? Had he been an astronaut or explorer we would surely know his name. He is standing still because he is having his shoes shined—the man doing the polishing is moving too quickly to be recorded and has blurred into oblivion.
     Upwards of fifty billion pictures of people have been taken since the perfection of photography, and this man, oblivious to the significance of what was happening, was the first. We know nothing about him. Perhaps he was someone like Rob, the talented young fellow who just married our niece, pausing for a shine on the way to his wedding.
     Congratulations Rob and Sarah. Treasure each moment of your new life together because at any moment something truly extraordinary can happen. 


  1. The first person ever photographed? Don't know his name, but I'll betcha he was a @&"&! politician.

    Glad you're back safely.


  2. I've never thought about this before. I don't take photographs either. Giving me a camera would be a waste of ones hard earned cash. It would end up in a drawer forever the rest of its existence.

    Happiness to the newlyweds. A start of their journey together.

    Have a terrific day. :)

  3. Interesting post.... I have actually wondered this before... and welcome back to Portland where todays weather.... sucks!

  4. The Dallas/Ft Worth airport is probably one of my least favorite places almost anywhere.

    Adam was going to be first. But Eve forgot to charge the battery in the camera.

  5. I'm glad you're back! I had noticed your absence, but forgot why you were gone. I'm glad it was gorgeous - weddings should always be remembered as gorgeous.

  6. considering this was the first, the quality actually surprises me a little bit. not bad at all