Beyond the many stories that have built the city of Paris, the French capital also contributed to scientific innovations. Indeed, it was in Paris that the first picture of a human being has been taken.
Nowadays, anyone knows the word “selfie” and our photographs are shared almost everywhere, practically worldwide, through a large number of social networks. But try to imagine a time when human beings weren’t photographed.
The first photograph of human beings, which was also the first of the city of Paris, was taken by Louis Daguerre, the inventor of the famous “daguerreotype”. Daguerre finalized an idea of Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, a French engineer considered as the inventor of photography, succeeding in obtaining a process of image development that, although very complex, contributed decisively to the spread of photography worldwide. Daguerre continued his researches and tried to improve the process, especially the fixation of the image and the shortening of the exposure time.
From 1835, his work will know very important advances, leading to the invention of the daguerreotype in 1839, first reliable and marketable photographic, which will be acquired by France the same year. Improving the discoveries of Niepce, the daguerreotype fixed images after an exposure time of about 10/15 minutes, while the old processes required several hours.
Taken at Place de la République in Paris, Daguerre composed his image looking southward toward Boulevard du Temple, better known at the time as “Crime Boulevard” because of the murders played every night in the dozens of theaters of the boulevard.
Incredibly, the characteristic Parisian rooftops make the photograph instantly recognizable as the City of Lights, even though almost two centuries have passed since the date of the photograph. The image was in fact created in 1839, and is considered by experts to be the first photograph in Paris.
However, the streets seem to be completely empty, a very strange circumstance even for that historical period. Because of the 10-minute-long exposure time necessary to the impression of the silver layer, typical of the daguerreotype, the people who passed through were not impressed, and are therefore ghosts in the image.
Daguerre managed to immortalize two men in the slab, a shoeshine and his client who were on the corner of the street. Their names are not known with certainty, but several sources report that the client was Daguerre’s assistant, who voluntarily stayed to have his shoes polished for a very long time, so as to remain imprinted on the photo together with the shoeshine. They have the privilege of being the first human beings in history to be photographed. Just imagine the number of likes Daguerre would have gotten on Instagram with this photo!