The first photograph of a human...

“Boulevard du Temple“, taken by Daguerre in late 1838 or early 1839 in Paris, was the first photograph of a person. The image shows a street, but because exposure time was over ten minutes, the traffic was moving too much to appear. The exception is the man at the bottom left, who stood still getting his boots polished long enough to show.”
- Wikipedia

Click to open the picture, then click the symbol in the upper right icon to see the full resolution image.

Thank you to John Pollock.

14 comments to The first photograph of a human…

  • Alun Edwards

    Fascinating - especially the skyline. Do you think there’s also another sedentary human visible exactly to the right of the standing figure - she (?) is a stall-holder sat next to a barrow(?).

  • Sue

    As far as I can see there are TWo humans. One getting his shoes polished and one doing the polishing. The rich nob is more obvious but the show shine boy is clear too why are the workers always sidelined in these cases?

  • jufjo

    Let’s make him the first human to be photographed and the man getting his shoes shined the second.

  • Chris

    Thank you for taking the time to post these comments, Alun and Sue.

    Here is a close-up of the cart:


    and here is a close up of the shoe-shining:


    I agree with you, Sue, it is a great pity when people who are not materially wealthy or of high social status are sidelined by history, or by our interpretation of the past, and that is certainly not something that “How to be a Retronaut” would want to promote. I guess what is the case in this picture is that the shoe-shiner is partially obscured by the tree in front of them, whereas the other person can be seen very clearly.

  • Ray Martin

    Sadly, when I look at this picture in the largest mode, the man is somehow cropped out of it. It’s the same with three different browsers :(
    Some of these images are so wonderful that I like to keep them and it’s not made easy here. Perhaps a download link?
    Great site!

  • Chris

    Hi Ray

    Thanks for making that point, and I am sorry that the image is cropped by the How to be a Retronaut lightbox.

    Although we don’t have an immediate solution, we will certainly look at how we can improve that feature, and in the meantime, where images are cropped, we will also post a link for downloading.

    So, here is the full Daguerre image. Click on the image to see it at full resolution - and uncropped.

    I do appreciate you taking the time to mention this


  • Ray Martin

    Yes, please ignore my silliness. I just realised that the image can be downloaded by right-clicking the one at the top of the page. D’Oh

  • Chris

    Not at all - its extremely cool that you care enough to raise it

  • Robyn

    There might be yet another human in the photo! It looks as if a child is peeking out the top left window of the closest building on the right. What do you think?

  • Mikael

    I think you might be right there robyn.

  • Robyn

    What is your professional opinion, Chris? :-)

  • Chris

    Thanks Robyn. There is certainly something holding that curtain back, and it just might be a child’s face - though it also looks a little like a chamber pot…

  • Chris Samuel

    Sadly I think that’s a chamber pot or vase, I don’t think a child could hold that still for that long..

  • Robyn

    Hmm. Chamber pot is an interesting thought. Those big ears could actually be handles! I was also thinking that it might be a cat or small dog (it does look like there could be pointy ears sticking up out of the top).

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