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Firsts In The Field Of Photography

Stop taking selfies on your smartphone and appreciate some history!

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The field of photography can be considered an art, science, and skill. It has the power to transform our world as well as document our history, yet it's become so common we often forget its immense impact on our daily lives.

Photograph (1826)

Joseph Niepce, a French inventor and pioneer in photography, is generally credited with producing the first photograph. Niepce’s photograph shows a view from the Window at Le Gras, and it only took eight hours of exposure time.

Image Of A Human Being (est.1838-1839)

“Boulevard du Temple”, taken by Louis Daguerre in Paris, was the first photograph containing the image of a person. You can see the man getting his boots polished in the bottom left corner.


Aerial Photograph (1858)

Parisian-born Nadar became the first person to take aerial photographs, using a huge balloon that he built called Le Géant. The first photos produced no longer exist and therefore the earliest surviving aerial photograph is titled "Boston, as the Eagle and the Wild Goose See It.'" It was taken by James Wallace Black on October 13, 1860.


(And some of the first aerial photographers)

In 1903, Julius Neubranner designed a tiny breast-mounted camera for carrier pigeons. The camera could be set to take automatic exposures at 30-second intervals as the pigeon flew along.

Color Photograph (1861)

Tartan Ribbon, photograph taken by James Clerk Maxwell in 1861. Considered the first color photograph. Maxwell had the photographer, Thomas Sutton, photograph a tartan ribbon three times. The three images were then projected onto a screen with three different projectors, each equipped with the same colour filter used to take its image.

Sequence Photographs (1872)

Using 16 cameras lined up in a row and a tripping mechanism, Eadweard Muybridge created this series of animal motion. This also answered the nagging question of the day, whether all four feet of a horse were off the ground at the same time while at a gallop. Yes, they are!


Rolled Photographic Film (1888)

"You press the button, we do the rest" promised George Eastman in 1888 with this advertising slogan for his Kodak camera. This was the first easy-to-use camera available for sale to the masses.

X-ray Photograph (1895)

Wilhelm Konrad Roentgen, the first recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physics, produced this image of his wife's hand. The photo became the first use of X-ray photography, making it possible to look inside the human body without surgical intervention.

Nighttime Wildlife Image (1906)

Shot by photographer and wildlife enthusiast George Shiras in 1906. He captured this shot in Whitefish River, Michigan using a remote-control flashlight camera triggered when an animal stepped on the trip wire.


Underwater Color Photograph (1926)

This Hogfish was photographed off the Florida Keys in the Gulf of Mexico by Dr. William Longley and National Geographic staff photographer Charles Martin. Equipped with cameras encased in waterproof housing and highly explosive magnesium flash powder for underwater illumination

Image of Earth From Space (1946)

This image was taken by a 35mm motion picture camera mounted to a missile that was launched to 65 miles above the surface of Earth. After being shot straight up on the rocket and capturing one frame every 1.5 seconds, the camera was smashed upon falling back to Earth but thankfully the images were saved.

High Speed Color Photograph (1957)

Dr. Harold Edgerton was the pioneer of ultra-high-speed and stop-action photography, and he then paved the way for the modern electronic flash. He devoted his life to showing things our human eye cannot see.


Sarah Karlan is a deputy editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.

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