The First Ever Photograph of a Person

Our normal expectations of photography tend to focus on the instancy of the process. A photo is a snapshot, a frozen slice of time measured in fractions of seconds. There’s one photograph, however, that’s different. It was made over a much longer duration. If you look at the bottom left of the frame of the picture below, you will see a man having his shoes shined. The picture is the earliest known photograph of a recognizable human being. It was taken in Paris, France, in 1838 by Louis Daguerre (pictured above). It wasn’t that the man in question was the only person on the street. More than likely, the street was full of horses and carts and pedestrians going about their business. It was rather that the exposure time for the image was around 10 minutes, which meant that everything else in the scene was moving too fast to be captured in any clarity. Only the man with his leg raised, who stood still long enough to register in the photograph, is visible. The shoe-shiner working on the man’s shoes is also present, though his form is not as distinct. 
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