Photography has influenced society since its inception in the 11th century. The oldest photographs depict fascinating details about life before pictures were common. From historical war photos to amazing images of space, the earliest surviving pictures known to man have a profound and engaging aura.
The very first camera was invented by an Iraqi scientist in the 11th century. Called the “camera obscura,” the device only projected images onto other surfaces, and upside down at that. However, in the early 19th century, photography as we know it was born. French photographer Joseph Nicéphore Niépce used a portable version of the 11th century “to expose a pewter plate coated with bitumen to light.” This became the first incarnation of permanent photography.
The images in this list are some of the oldest photographs, and most of them are the first of their kind. From the first picture ever taken by Niépce to the first movie, these images capture the development of permanent photography throughout the course of the 19th century.
First Photograph On A Camera
View from the Window at Le Gras, 1826, Saône-et-Loire, Bourgogne, France
First Photograph With A Human In It
Boulevard du Temple, 1838, Paris, France
First Self-Portrait Photograph
“Robert Cornelius, head-and-shoulders [self-]portrait, facing front, with arms crossed,” 1839, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US
First Photograph Of The Moon
1840, rooftop observatory at NYU, New York, US
First Hoax Photograph
Self Portrait as a Drowned Man, 1840, France
Oldest Photograph Of A US President
Photograph of President John Quincy Adams, 1843, United States
Oldest Photograph Of People Drinking
Edinburgh Ale, 1844, Edinburgh, Scotland
First Photograph Of The Sun
Image of the Sun, 1845, Paris, France
Oldest Photograph Of New York City
1848, Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York, US
Oldest Aerial Photograph
Boston, as the Eagle and the Wild Goose See It, October 13, 1860, Boston, Massachusetts, US
*This is actually not the first aerial photograph. Photographer Nadar shot the first aerial photo, but it was lost.
First Color Photograph
Tartan Ribbon, 1861, London, England
First Colored Landscape Photograph
View of Agen, 1877, Agen, France
First High-Speed Photographic Series
Sallie Gardner at a Gallop, 1878, Palo Alto, California, US
First Photograph Of Lightning
Photograph of lightning, 1882, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US
First Photograph Of A Tornado