Charles O'Rear in 2007
|Born||Butler, Missouri, USA|
|Residence||St. Helena, Napa Valley, USA|
|Other names||Chuck O'Rear|
Charles O'Rear (born 1941), also credited as Chuck O'Rear, is an American photographer best known for his photos of wine country and the image, Bliss that is included in Windows XP and is considered as "the most viewed photograph of all time". Microsoft purchased the image with "reportedly the second most expensive photo licence ever" and used as a default wallpaper for Windows XP. O'Rear started his career with the daily newspapers like The Kansas City Star, Los Angeles Times, worked for National Geographic magazine, and was part of Environmental Protection Agency's DOCUMERICA project. He began photographing wine-making in 1978. Since 1998, O'Rear has been associated with Corbis, a Seattle based stock photography company.
Early life and career 
O'Rear was born in Butler, Missouri in 1941 and first handled the camera Brownie Box when he was ten years old. As a kid, he desired to be a pilot and got his license at the age of 16. He attended State Teachers College and started his career as a sports reporter for the Butler Daily Democrat. In 1962, he joined the daily newspaper The Kansas City Star as a reporter-photographer and later in 1966, he moved to Los Angeles to join as a staff photographer for another daily newspaper Los Angeles Times.
In 1971, National Geographic magazine hired O'Rear to document the lives of Russian villagers in Alaska who called themselves "Old Believers". In 1978, the magazine sent him to Napa Valley to photograph the wine region. Since then, O'Rear became interested in wine photography and shifted his base to the valley to photograph the region. In 1980, he traveled to Indonesia for another assignment for the magazine where he carried 500 rolls of film and took 15,000 photos. O'Rear has appeared on National Geographic magazine cover twice; once as "Bird Man" flying an ultra light aircraft and later for the other photograph shown him holding a computer chip in his hand. O'Rear had been associated with the magazine for more than 20 years (1971–1995) and has photographed in 30 countries and every state in USA. For the magazine, he has provided photographs for more than 20 articles; ranging various topics including the Mexican Riviera, Siberia, Canada, Silicon Valley and Napa Valley. While working with the National Geographic, O'Rear mastered the use of small strobes and taught the subject for 11 years at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshop.
During 1972 to 1977, O'Rear was part of Environmental Protection Agency's DOCUMERICA project which aimed at "photographically documenting the subjects of environmental concern in America during the 1970s" along with 70 other photographers including Bill Strode, Danny Lyon and John H. White. O'Rear is credited with the most photographs in the final DOCUMERICA collection. In 1980, he co-founded the photo agency, "Westlight", with Craig Aurness, which was later acquired by Corbis in 1998. In 1998, Corbis sent O'Rear around the world for a year to photograph major wine regions.
In January 1998, O'Rear was driving through Napa and Sonoma counties in California and photographed a green, lush hillside on the side of the highway 12/121. O'Rear took the photograph with a hand-held medium-format Mamiya RZ67 camera. He submitted the picture to Corbis, owned by Microsoft chief executive Bill Gates.
Microsoft picked O'Rear's image for its new operating system Windows XP in 2002. Microsoft's payment for the rights to the photo was "reportedly the second most expensive photo licence ever purchased" and O'Rear said the amount is "extraordinary". Microsoft named the image as Bliss and used it as the default wallpaper for the Luna theme of its Windows XP operating system published in 2002. With the success of Windows XP, the photograph became integral of the operating system and is credited as "one of the most viewed image of the world". Microsoft chose the image because "it illustrates the experiences Microsoft strives to provide customers (freedom, possibility, calmness, warmth, etc.)." O'Rear was later reported to have said in an interview that he didn't expect the shot would become the "most viewed image on the planet".
As for the Dutch edition of the operating system, the name of the image is Ireland, it was mistakenly believed to be the location of the image. Before the real location of photograph was revealed, it had been speculated with various locations including France, England, Switzerland, the North Otago region of New Zealand, southeastern Washington, South West Kerry in Ireland. The image was alleged to have digitally manipulated to enhance its effects and also to be a computer-generated scene, assembled using Adobe Photoshop from a number of different images but O'Rear denied the claim and reported that it was submitted to Corbis without making any change to it. However, Microsoft made few changes to the submitted image by cropping the image on the left side of the frame and altering the color of the hillside to a much more vivid green. The image also became part of Microsoft's $200 million advertising campaign to promote their software, Yes You Can and has been subject to many parodies.
- Napa Valley (1989)
- Fodor's Wine Country (1995)
- Cabernet: A Photographic Journey from Vine to Wine (1998) co-authored with Michael Creedman, Foreword by Robert Mondavi
- Chardonnay: Photographs from Around the World (1999) co-authored with Michael Creedman
- Napa Valley: The Land, The Wine, The People (2001)
- Beautiful Wineries (2005) co-authored with Thom Elkjer
- Wine Places: The Land, the Wine, the People (2005) co-authored with David Furer
- Wine Across America: A Photographic Road Trip (2007) co-authored with Daphne Larkin
- Beringer's Rhine House (2009) co-authored with Daphne Larkin
- Napa Valley: The Land, The Wine, The People (2011)
- Younger, Carolyn (January 18, 2010). "Windows XP desktop screen is a Napa image". Napa Valley Register. Retrieved May 10, 2013.
- "Biography, Charles O'Rear". wineviews.com. Retrieved May 10, 2013.
- "Member Information: Charles O'Rear". thephotosociety.org. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
- "The George Washington Bridge in Heavy Smog, View Toward the New Jersey Side of the Hudson River". World Digital Library. Retrieved February 10 2013.
- "DOCUMERICA: The Environmental Protection Agency's Program to Photographically Document Subjects of Environmental Concern, 1972-1977". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved February 10 2013.
- "Documerica in Focus: Charles "Chuck" O'Rear". United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved May 11 2013.
- Gardner, David (November 12 2011). "Scene grab: How a sun-kissed California view became the most recognisable vista on the planet". Daily Mail. Retrieved May 12 2013.
- "Microsoft behind world’s most viewed photograph". The Times of India. July 18 2012. Retrieved May 12 2013.
- Clark, David. "Bliss by Charles O'Rear: Iconic Photograph". Amateur Photographer. Retrieved May 12 2013.
- "Charles O'Rear's 'Bliss' one of the most viewed photo of all time". Yahoo! News. July 18 2012. Retrieved May 12 2013.
- Messieh, Nancy (August 28 2011). "Ever wonder where the Windows XP default wallpaper came from?". The Next Web. Retrieved May 12 2013.
- Turner, Paul (22 February 2004). "No view of Palouse from Windows". The Spokesman-Review (Spokane). Archived from the original on 16 November 2009. Retrieved 19 September 2012.
- "LinkedIn profile: Charles O'Rear". LinkedIn . Retrieved May 11 2013.
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