The world’s first photograph can be seen in Austin, Texas
If you search for the world’s first photo, you’ll usually see the top version below, a contrasty image of a view out the studio window of French inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, entitled “View from the Window at Le Gras,” which was printed in 1826. 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 to a pinhole of sunlight for hours.
I’ve been to see the world’s first photograph at the HRC several times. When I last visited, it was housed in a light-controlled booth and the actual image was difficult to discern. Now it has been given a beautiful display case as shown below. It’s worth a visit — in fact, for people who love photography, it should be pilgrimage. There’s only one “world’s first photograph,” and you can see it yourself.
Visit the Harry Ransom Center
Hours, maps, and parking directions are here.
Admission is free.
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Sources: All images courtesy of the Harry Ransom Center