View of the Boulevard du Temple

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Daguerre's daguerrotype taken at 8 am

The View of the Boulevard du Temple of 1838 (or possibly 1839) is one of the earliest daguerrotype plates produced by Louis Daguerre.[1] Although the image seems to be of a deserted street, it is widely considered to be the first photograph to include an image of people.[2][3]


The earliest known photograph, the heliographic View from the Window at Le Gras, had been produced some ten years earlier using a technique that required an exposure time of some eight hours which meant that only static objects could be recorded.[4] However, by 1838 Daguerre had developed his own method whereby the exposure was reduced to only seven minutes or so.[2]

Crop showing people photographed

The photograph was taken from a window in Daguerre's studio beside the Diorama de Louis Daguerre [fr] at 5 Rue des Marais [fr], behind the Place du Château-d'Eau [fr]. This was at a time before the Place de la République had been built and the location is where now Rue du Fauborg du Temple [fr] joins the Place de la République.[5][6] The plate is about 13 by 16 centimetres (5 by 6 in).[6] The Boulevard du Temple would have been busy with people and horse traffic but because an exposure time of about ten minutes would have been required the only people recorded were two keeping still – a bootblack and his customer at the corner of the street shown at lower left of the plate.[3]

Publication and exhibition[edit]

Daguerre first publicly announced his invention to the French Académie des Sciences in January 1839 but in March 1839 a fire at his studio destroyed almost all of his daguerrotypes leaving only about 25 which can be definitely attributed to him.[7]

In October 1839, as a publicity effort, he presented King Ludwig I of Bavaria with a framed tryptic of his work in which this photograph was the right hand image.[8] This image was labelled as having been taken at huit heures du matin and a very similar plate was mounted in the left panel marked as midi.[8] The images were both taken on the same day, either in 1838 or 1839, together with a third plate which has since been lost.[9] The triptych was put on display at the Munich Arts Association wherethey immediately attracted attention with the Leipzig Pfennig-Magazin saying of the 8 am image that there appeared to be a man having his boots polished who must have been standing extremely still.[8]

Second image taken at midday

The images were stored at the royal palace and later at the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum archives where they gradually deteriorated until in 1936 or 1937 the American historian of photography Beaumont Newhall rediscovered them and made reproductions for display in New York. In 1949 he published them in his book The History of Photography from 1839 to the present Day. During World War II the original daguerrotypes were kept in poor conditions until in 1970 they were placed on loan with the Munich Stadtmuseum. Restoration was attempted but with disastrous results. Since then daguerreotype facsimiles have been produced from Newhall's copies.[8]


8 am image reversed to show actual orientation

Various people have scrutinised the image to see if there are traces of any other activity. There may be faint images of other people and possibly a child looking out of a window, and a horse.[10][11]

As with all Daguerre's plates, the picture is mirror image.[10] Bearing this in mind the camera location and angle have been analysed.[12][13] There may have been photographs of people before 1838. Hippolyte Bayard claimed to have taken photographic self-portraits in 1837 but these have not survived. There are other daguerrotypes, both portraits and possibly by Daguerre, that might also date from 1837.[6] The self-portrait by the American Robert Cornelius was taken in 1839.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Steiner, Keith (20 November 2018). Passages in Time. Troubador Publishing Ltd. p. 11. ISBN 978-1-78901-411-2.
  2. ^ a b Griggs, Brandon (10 November 2014). "Oldest surviving photo of a human?". CNN News. Archived from the original on 9 August 2019. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
  3. ^ a b Scott, Alistair. "Great Photographs No.1 – Boulevard du Temple, Paris, 8 in the morning". Archived from the original on 29 September 2018. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
  4. ^ Harry Ransom Center (5 May 2014). "From the Outside In: First photograph, "View from the Window at Le Gras," Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, ca. 1826". University of Texas Ransom Center. Archived from the original on 9 August 2019. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
  5. ^ Wood, R. Derek (1997). "Daguerre and his Diorama in Paris in the 1830s". Archived from the original on 28 September 2018. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
  6. ^ a b c Renaud Février, Renaud (2 September 2017). "Le boulevard du Temple, la première photo où apparaît un humain ?". L'Obs (in French). Archived from the original on 9 August 2019. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
  7. ^ Daniel, Malcolm (October 2004). "Daguerre (1787–1851) and the Invention of Photography". Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. Metropolitan Museum of Art. Archived from the original on 30 March 2019. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d Ballhause, Sylvia. "The Munich Daguerre-Triptych" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 February 2017. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
  9. ^ Geoffrey Batchen (1999). Burning with Desire: The Conception of Photography. MIT Press. p. 133. ISBN 978-0-262-52259-5.
  10. ^ a b Uren, Amanda; Wild, Chris. "The first photograph of a human being". Mashable. Archived from the original on 3 June 2019. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
  11. ^ Krulwich, Robert (1 November 2010). "A Second Look At The First Photo Of A Human". Krulwich Wonders Robert Krulwich on Science. National Public Radio. Archived from the original on 9 August 2019. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
    Leo, Charles (28 October 2010). "Colorized Boulevard Du Temple by Daguerre". LunarStudio. Archived from the original on 9 August 2019. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
    Siegel, Steffen (1 August 2017). First Exposures: Writings from the Beginning of Photography. Getty Publications. pp. 56–58. ISBN 978-1-60606-524-2.
  12. ^ Darcy-Roquencourt., Jacques (5 April 2002). "Boulevard du Temple de Daguerre". Archived from the original on 13 October 2018. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
  13. ^ Withnall, Adam (5 November 2014). "This is the first ever photograph of a human – and how the scene it". The Independent. Archived from the original on 3 March 2017. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
  14. ^ Hannavy, John (16 December 2013). Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography. Routledge. pp. 338–340. ISBN 978-1-135-87327-1.

Further reading[edit]

Coordinates: 48°52′07.1″N 2°21′47.7″E / 48.868639°N 2.363250°E / 48.868639; 2.363250