Saturday, April 05, 2008

The world's oldest photograph?

As a kind of follow-up to an earlier post on what may be the world's earliest sound recording, I thought some readers might be interested in the image shown above. Known as a 'photogenic drawing,' a kind of photographic negative produced by placing an object directly on paper treated with silver nitrate, this simple picture of a leaf may be the world's oldest photographic image. Scholars previously believed that this image was created by photographic pioneer William Fox Talbot in 1839, but studies by photo historian Larry Schaaf suggest that it may actually be the work of Thomas Wedgwood (as in Wedgwood china), who started to experiment with photography in the 1790s. Sotheby's New York has shelved plans to auction the image next Monday so that its origin may be studied further. If the image is really Wedgwood's work, the early history of photography will have to be substantially rewritten. Even if the 'photographic drawing' is very primitive by our standards - or even by the standards of other early photographers like William Fox Talbot and Louis Daguerre, who produced much more sophisticated work - it remains historically significant. As the saying goes, great things have small beginnings. AMDG.


At 4/07/2008 5:10 PM, Blogger Joseph Fromm said...

Is there an oldest picture of a Jesuit?

At 4/07/2008 11:32 PM, Blogger Joseph Koczera, S.J. said...


That's a good question - I would not be surprised if there were photos of Jesuits from as early as the 1840s, when photography slowly became more and more widespread. However, I don't have an exact answer - I'm sure a great deal could be written on Jesuits and early photography (if there hasn't been something on this already).


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