Friday, 28 September 2012

A few of my favorite things. Well, one of them, really.

I really like black and white images. I also like history, old photographs, and mysteries. Allow me to introduce you to a picture that combines all of these things. It is the first known photograph ever taken of a human being. 

See if you can spot the person. Kind of like Where’s Wally? I call it Where's the Shadowy Unnamed Victorian Gentleman?

What do you mean, you can’t see any red and white stripes? 

Didn’t see him? I didn’t the first time, either. Here, let me show you:

Here’s a close-up:

Even his fuzzy silhouette looks dapper and charming. I hereby dub thee ‘Mr Darcy'.

This photograph is called Boulevard du Temple and it was taken by a man called Louis Daguerre. It’s kind of a cool story.

One afternoon in 1838 in Paris, Louis Daguerre left his daguerreotype (a type of camera he had invented himself) in the window to take a photo of the Boulevard. At this time cameras were not used to take pictures of people. This is because the exposure time (in very simplified terms, the time it took to capture the image) was over ten minutes, and nobody could sit still long enough. Back then, if you walked right past the lens of a camera while it was taking a picture you wouldn’t even show up.

So Daguerre, when he put his daguerreotype in the window, was only planning to take a picture of the static objects, the buildings and trees and such. The Boulevard du Temple was actually a very busy street, so at the time the picture was taken there were loads of people and carriages passing by, only they don’t show up in the picture because they were moving. Pretty creepy, right?

So why, then, does the mystery man show up? Here’s the thing: during the exact minutes that Louis Daguerre put his camera on the window ledge, Mr. Darcy stopped to have his boots shined, and stood still just long enough that his image was captured on the camera he didn’t even know was there. The blurry shadow of the boy shining his boots is just visible if you look very carefully, although he isn’t nearly as crisp because, of course, he was moving.

Isn’t that fantastic? Getting your boots shined was just a routine, everyday thing in those days. On this particular day 200 years ago this gentleman gets his image captured forever, and then walks away none the wiser. He’s the first person ever to be photographed and we’ll never know who he was. And Mr Darcy probably lived out the rest of his life in complete ignorance, not knowing that two hundred years later people would be examining his posture, determining exactly what he was doing at that very moment, and writing articles about him on the internet.

So that’s the story of the Boulevard du Temple. I have a few other pictures I love, and most of them have nice histories, so I might be telling y’all about those in the future. Does anybody else have a favorite photograph?

[I wrote the majority of this article from memory. If any of the information is inaccurate it is completely my own fault.]


  1. I've never heard of Boulevard du Temple, but I liked the philosophy fundering about "Mr. Darcy". Two of my weak spots are philosophy and behind-the-scenes technique - which I'm gonna google after this comment ;)
    Unfortunately, I don't have any favorite picture, since I've never been enough interested to develope opinion and knowledge in that department. I mean, I could... But we could do so many things anyway, if you know what I mean. Though, I still understand why people are so interested in taking pictures, analyzing them etc. :)
    I really feel like I'm learning stuff through your every post, and your passion and humor just adds to the enjoyment :D

    1. I'm *really* glad that you feel like you're learning from my posts. I think the most important things in life are to never stop learning or creating. And there are so many interesting, amazing, and mindblowing things in the world. I pretty much started the blog so I could have somewhere to put the things I find interesting, because my family members were getting tired of being woken up in the middle of the night so I could tell them how Vivien Leigh got the part of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind (it's pretty cool story, by the way. I might be telling it someday.:P).

  2. I think this is one of my favourite photographs for reasons not everyone will identify with or agree!

    Being a lover of design, stories and romance I love it because not only is the juxtaposition of the bowls beautiful (laid out like petals the white bowls with their unfussy and colourful designs seem to just wait to be admired) the designs of the bowls were inspired by a series of paintings of flowers the architect Emir Uras made for his wife: 500 Flowers for Zeynab. (I wrote a brief blog post about it: Uras' thinking is fascinating, (click 'about')

    I love how the following can follow from one another and create a series of powerful artistic expressions : photography, utility, interior design, art & love. An emotion translated into several tangible things and then captured in a single photograph. Of course, what we do not see is the tangible objects being used - whether it is cereal in the bowls, the collection of paintings on a coffee table, or one of the paintings hung in Zeynab's bathroom. But then, perhaps we would delve into someone else's emotion and thus forget about Emir Uras' original emotion? Art is subject to interpretation, but I believe the artist's inspiration has to be taken into consideration first. Of course, some would disagree with me :) But this is why I love the photograph, it leads us along a journey that takes us back to Uras' love for his wife.

    (btw, I found your blog thanks to your story 'Faking it' on Wattpad. I've spent the last year or so aimlessly reading the stories there and finally stumbled upon yours and woke up. Thank you for introducing me to George Sterling!)

    1. This is why I love the internet-you never stop learning things here. Thank you for teaching me something new.

      I kinda agree and disagree with you about the art thing. I believe that yes, the artist's intention must be taken into consideration, but I also believe that anything an artist creates must be able to stand on its own, too. Every creation is driven by emotion or the need to send a certain message, but saying that an artist and his artwork are interdependent is to lower the integrity of the artwork. A work should be able to be autonomous and admired for its own sake, as well as delivering the message the artist meant it to have.

      But of course, any work, once finished, is sent out into the world and people are then free to make of it what they wish. For instance, I'm really into Bod Dylan, but I've never bothered with what his lyrics are *supposed* to mean, because they already mean something to me and I'm happy with my interpretation.

      Anyway, enough with the seriousness. It's great to see another reader from Wattpad here! I think most of my readers come from over there. You are most welcome for the George Sterling referral. I started the blog mostly because I felt I *had* to stop sneaking in so many references in my stories. In fact, I'm thinking of doing a post here soon about my fetish for people named "George". George Sterling, George Carlin, George RR Martin, Curious George...wait, scratch that last one. I hate Curious George.

  3. hahaha

    I think I understand what you mean about artwork needing to be able to stand on its own, but then, like you referred to with Bob Dylan's lyrics, it is all subjective. The way we go about approaching and understanding art differs from one person to the next. I love finding out about the artist's inspiration, but I accept that for others it's not the driving force behind their understanding & interpretation of the piece of art :)