When was the first picture taken?


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Tim Cook answered

The Harry Ransom Center, a cultural and literary archive in Austin, Texas, USA, holds around five million rare and old photographs. 

One such photograph is revered in particular and without which none of the other photographs would be possible. This is the first photograph.

This picture, now known as View from the Window at Le Gras, was taken in either 1826 or 1827 by French inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. It shows the view from an upper window of Niépce's estate, le Gras, near the village of Saint-Loup-de-Varennes, Burgundy, France. 

Such was the pioneering nature of the art at the time, the photograph may have required an exposure of eight hours - some experts believe an exposure of several days might have been needed.

How the Photograph was Created

Niépce coated a pewter plate with a solution of asphalt and placed the plate into a camera. 

After the exposure, Niépce was the plate with a mixture of lavender oil and white petroleum, dissolving away the parts of the bitumen that had not been hardened by light. 

The result was the permanent image of a real life scene to be captured via a lens, showing a view of the outbuildings, courtyard, trees, and landscape at Le Gras. 

The photograph is stored in special conditions at the Harry Ransom Center, to enable the best possible viewing experience - up close, the picture looks like an ordinary piece of buckled tin.

This documentary tells you more about the origins of photography:

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