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A Photographer's Grave Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

3 October 2013

The Halloween decorations are out and the pumpkins piled up at the supermarket but the real thing is always more engaging. PhoozL founder Harald Johnson recalled his visit to "the world's oldest photograph in a display case in Austin, Texas."

It all started when Johnson went to the Arles Photo Festival in southern France on a consulting trip. While he was there, he visited the birthplace of Nicéphore Niépce, who took the world's oldest photograph. That led him to the workshop and on to the grave.

Niépce's Grave. Photo by Harald Johnson.

Standing in the restored workshop, Johnson was able to see what Niépce had seen 187 years ago:

I mean, here I was standing on the actual wide-plank floorboards (rediscovered by Mahé) that Niépce had walked on to create the earliest existing photograph in history. With a light breeze coming in through the open window, I closed my eyes, and I was there in 1826. Fantastic!

But what had Niépce seen?

Merely his View from the Window at Le Gras, which is now on display in a special vault at the University of Texas at Austin. Johnson continues his quest with a trip to Austin.

"Progress in art and science always owes big debts to those who have come before," Johnson notes, "and I feel lucky to have experienced first-hand the photo that is the cornerstone of the process of photography, which has so revolutionized our world."

Johnson's'The First Photo on PetaPixel tells the whole story with lots of images (including what may be the world's first darkroom, the plate itself, Helmut Gernsheim's drawing of it and more).

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