The world’s oldest photograph can be seen in Austin, Texas
If you search the Internet for the world’s oldest photograph, you’ll usually see the top version below, a contrasty image of the view outside the studio window of French inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, entitled “View from the Window at Le Gras,” which was printed in 1827. But the actual photograph — the object made by Niépce — can be seen at the Harry Ransom Center on the campus of The University of Texas in Austin.
As shown below, the actual print is very faint, barely visible in person. It’s made of a pewter plate coated with bitumen. The image was made using the camera obscura technique, exposed through a pinhole of sunlight for several days.
I’ve been to see the world’s first photograph at the HRC several times. The priceless artifact is displayed in a beautiful, secure, and climate controlled case.
It’s worth a visit — in fact, for people who love photography, it should be pilgrimage. There’s only one “world’s oldest photograph,” and you can see it yourself. There’s something so exciting about seeing beautiful photographic prints in person — especially if it’s one of the world’s great photographs. It’s almost like glimpsing a famous musician or movie star at the airport — you know you’re in the presence of greatness. The sensation is electric.
Visit the Harry Ransom Center
Admission is free.
Thanks for reading!
Sources: Unless otherwise credited, all images are provided courtesy of the Harry Ransom Center