Colorized Daguerreotype Brings Out Details, Additional People

After coming across my post about the first photograph of a human known to exist, one reader spent some time last night colorizing and refining the image, curious as to whether or not he'd be able to find anybody else. Shot by Daguerre in 1838 in Paris, the image clearly shows one man on the sidewalk near the bottom left corner getting his shoes shined. Because of the long exposure time -- estimated to be between 10 and 20 minutes -- only static objects appear in the final version of the photograph, which can be seen below. (Click on this image or any that follow to view a larger version.)

Daguerre.jpg

By colorizing the photograph to help distinguish one item from another, Charles Leo believes he may have identified some additional people as well as the time of day and season during which it was taken. Leo, the owner of LunarStudio, a small firm that specializes in architectural illustrations, animations and renderings, sent an email directing me to his post, where a handful of readers have been adding to the analysis.

DaguerreColor1.jpg

Leo chose the colors for his version of the photograph by referencing 19th century paintings of the area. He had trouble determining the color of the street, but settled on a reddish color as it appears to be made of brick.

Judging by the mix of denuded and full trees in the scene, Leo believes this photograph was taken in the fall. The steepness of the shadows on the street indicate that it was either early morning or later in the afternoon, Leo wrote. One of his readers noted that the view seen is to the southeast, so the shadows depicted are evening shadows. "[I]f its autumn in Paris my guess is it's prob­a­bly close to 3-4pm," he reader added.

And, yes, Leo believes he was able to spot some additional people in the photograph, but he can't be certain of that. Click on the image below to see Leo's notes and the spots under the building canopy where more people may be standing.

DaguerreColor2.jpg

Read the original post, "The First Photograph of a Human."

Images courtesy Charles Leo.

Presented by

Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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