Pl / En

The Birth of Photography

Francesca Seravalle

Until Proven Otherwise.
On The Evidence of the First Photos

Everything started with a simple question when I was looking up pictures for different research on Google images: “What is the first photo uploaded on the Internet?” I started to chase many First Photos following four tracks: photographic inventions, scientific and technological discoveries, historical landmarks, and first seen visions of nature. Since then I have collected about 160 First Photos. The research on the Internet is not entirely reliable, I therefore sought to compare the sources and their authors by expanding my research to books in order to prove their authenticity. Nonetheless, I’ve also been able to identify mistakes in traditional manuals of the history of photography. Moreover, I tried to contact all the inventors available who could give me proof of authenticity on the picture in question (the first Photoshop, the first PNG, the first screenshot, etc.). This is how I unmasked fake information in books, newspapers and on the Web, such as the First Photo uploaded to the Web. On the other hand I have contacted curators, museums and institutes spread across the continents to acquire proof and to ask for help in regard to certain researches.

Every First Photo has an intriguing story behind it. For example, the inspiration of the first pixelated photo (a scan) by Russell Kirsch in 1957 by the Ancient Ravenna’s Mosaic; the first jpeg made by a scan of the Playboy centrefold in Nov 1972.

I started to theorise on the aesthetic connections between them,
and I discovered that there are in fact connections linking the photographed subject and the inventor. A test shot of a photographic device generally focuses on something that the inventor has an intimate relationship with, documenting his everyday life: the subjects consist of wives, children and the interior or views from their house or studio, if it even wasn’t themselves or their hand. In early photographs the subjects are often leaves because many inventors were botanists interested in experiments on the light. They have an authentic relationship with their time. Like our family photo albums, they lack a “glamour” filter.

For me, the chase for the First Photos has been an archaeological utopia, an obsession and the pleasure to assist for the first time to phenomenon with the freedom of testing every source. The First Photos carry in them the revelational ability of being unique records of these first experiences in history; they are milestones of our contemporary society. I am now completely focused on seeking out other First Photographs that are missing.

Francesca Seravalle

The First Digital Photo and the first pixelated image: Scanned picture of Russell Kirsch’s son Walden,
1957, Until Proven
The First Photo by a Japanese Photographer. Portrait of Shimazu Nariakira by Ichiki Shirō, 17
Sept1857, Until
Proven Otherwise
The First Photo of an Exoplanet (Extrasolar Planet), Infrared image of the brown
dwarf 2M1207 (bluish)
and companion planet
2M1207b (reddish), taken by VLT
The First Photo with human presence, “Boulevard du Temple” by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, 1838, Until Proven Otherwise
The First Fiction Photo of the Moon. By Sir John Herschel, 1842, Until Proven
The First Self-Portrait. Robert Cornelius,
1839, Until Proven