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Monday, November 12, 2012

Someone Had To Be First


  
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 their 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 relentlessly. 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 Parisian studio. He 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. 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 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 the moment, was the first. Yet we know nothing about him. Perhaps he was someone just like you.
      
How many times have you paused on a sunny day for a simple pleasure? An ice cream cone, a chat with a friend, a lingering moment on a park bench to watch the world pass by. Haven’t we all done these things and disregarded them as common occurrences unworthy of reflection? Once upon a time a fellow paused to have his shoes shined. 

     
Treasure each moment of your life because at any moment something extraordinary can happen.

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28 comments:

  1. Now days with digital cameras and Facebook you can pretty much see what everyone's doing every second of the day. How long did it take Daguerre to invent the tripod? With how long it took to take a picture it couldn't have been that long, right?

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  2. Hahahaha.... I never thought about who was the first person to have his picture taken. LoL...

    I see the man in the picture you are talking about. I had no idea it took that long to develop a picture way back when.

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  3. How interesting .. now if only i could recall where i just read something about Daguerre and that exact photo ... sigh ...

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  4. We never know, do we, what seemingly random moment of our life is the one that will mark us for posterity~

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  5. Intersting post with great signifigance and a bit of wisdom. I love your advice at the end.

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  6. I'm still waiting for that moment!

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  7. Wow. How i needed that.

    Yes, i'm at the other site, somehow, also. Hope the move is going more smoothly now.

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  8. It looke to me that the guy is pissing on a statue!

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  9. Nice post.
    I wonder who was the first person to have their picture taken naked?
    The image above is slightly haunting,
    Cheers, Sausage...

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  10. Very good post, Steven.You are so right..we need to live each day as if it were our last!!

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  11. I wonder who the first person was who cringed at their driver's license photo and asked for a do-over? Haha! Interesting post, Steve.

    S

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  12. "Treasure each moment of your new life because at any moment something extraordinary can happen." WOW--that just blew me away!!

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  13. "Technically" this is not the first picture taken.

    The first picture taken is visible to you every single night when you gaze into the stars. Light travels at such a slow speed that literally gazing into the cosmos gives you photographs and pictures of things that haven't existed for thousands, millions, perhaps even billions of years. With a high enough lens, we gaze into the past which is forever displayed over our heads as the stars. With a high enough lens, it may be possible some day to see the very origin of the universe.

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  14. You are so right about treasuring every moment! It seems when you least expect it, something extraordinarily wacky happens right before our very eyes!!

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  15. what a great story, as usual. thank you :)

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  16. What a fun post! I always wonder about the people in old photographs.

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  17. Immortalized without realizing it, and at such an ordinary moment (unless it was the only time he ever had his shoes shined.) Pretty darn cool.

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  18. Interesting idea which provokes a lot of thought. This could go on and on. First guy to wear a bow tie?

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  19. And that would have been such an ordinary, mundane thing to do back then--have your shoes shined. You think such interesting thoughts, young man! ;)

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  20. You are at your most thought-provoking, Stephen! Great stuff, much appreciated!

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  21. This made me think... and surprised at the way you wrote this, quite a difference from your usual. I like it though!

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  22. Who ever it was seems a bit of a thug; I don't know about shoe-shining but it looks to me like he is kicking some unfortunate fellow in the groin! A bit like a weekly crime program on UK television called "Caught on Camera." In this case it is a very old camera.

    Thought-provoking post Stephen.

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  23. Yes and when you find out let me at'em! I HATE my photos. And I absolutely LOATHE others who post MY picture on FB.

    There I said it.

    Instagram be damned!

    heh heh

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  24. This made me wonder who was the first person to be captured in a Google Street View. A friend of ours is walking from her parked car to our front door, but she is not the first.

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  25. Are you sure he's having his shoes shined? I hope so. Because otherwise the first person to be photographed was lifting his leg on a hydrant.

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