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August 18, 2018

Here's the First Photograph of a Human Being, and How the Scene Has Changed From 180 Years Ago

A lot has changed in Paris since the first photograph showing a human being was taken on its streets 180 years ago – but if you took one today using the same technique, you probably wouldn’t be able to make out anybody at all.

A reversed version of the first photograph ever to include a human being - and how the street in Paris looks today.

Louis Daguerre’s view of the Boulevard du Temple in the French capital was captured in 1838, using a method – the daguerreotype – that took around seven minutes to develop a single image.

Such a long exposure meant that anything moving around was not picked up. The only figure to stay still long enough was a man, on the corner of the street, who had stopped to have his shoes shined.

Daguerre's image of Boulevard du Temple, Paris, 3rd arrondissement, in 1838. The man having his shoes shined can be seen in the bottom left.

Created using a chemically-treated silver plate, it only shows anyone at all because the man stopped long enough to make history. Taking a daguerreotype in the same place today, it is unlikely anyone would be standing around having their shoes shined.

Boulevard du Temple in Paris, as it looks today.

Daguerre’s technique was the first to produce a sharp image in a way that could be widely replicated, and his was the first photographic method to be adopted around the world. As with most daguerreotypes, that of Boulevard du Temple is a mirror image. It has been flipped at the top of the page to make a more direct comparison with today.

The street is the Boulevard du Temple, part of a fashionable area of shops, cafés and theaters. It was nicknamed the "Boulevard du Crime" because of the many crime melodramas playing in its theaters. It later lost many of these when Baron Haussmann, under the instructions of Napoleon III, remodeled and modernized Paris, removing the narrow, dark and dangerous streets of the medieval city and replacing them with parks and open spaces. This process began in 1853.

While the man having his boots shined and the person doing the shining are the most recognizable human figures, a very detailed examination of the photograph reveals other possible people.

(via The Independent)



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