Sunday, December 05, 2004

Early Photography

Lately, I’ve been wondering (as is my custom): who is the earliest-born subject of a photograph?

The earliest-born American President who was photographed was Andrew Jackson (1767-1845). Mathew Brady took his portrait in 1845, shortly before the seventh President’s death.

Andrew Jackson

Perhaps, since the French invented photography as we know it, there is a portrait of some person born before 1767.

Probably the first person photographed was someone in Louis Daguerre’s “Boulevard du Temple, Paris” (1838):

Boulevard du Temple

See him in the lower left corner, getting his boots polished?

Man getting his boots polished

But the first photograph ever taken that survived was “View from the Window at Le Gras” (1826) by Joseph Niepce:

View from the Window at Le Gras

Edit: It appears that the same photographer recorded an image a year earlier of a print of a boy leading his horse:

"Boy Leading Horse", Joseph Niepce (1825)

I find it fascinating to think that, however unlikely, it is theoretically possible for someone to have photographed a person who was born in the 1600s. Granted, they would have had to be almost 130 years old, and would have had to sit very still (likely for someone of that age). But 1767 isn’t bad.

Edit: I found this image of Conrad Heyer on the Historic American Prints web site:

Conrad Heyer (1749-1856)

If you know of someone who was born earlier than March 15, 1767 1749, for whom there exists a photograph, let me know.


Beat Boy said...

Hi Greg: There's a photograph of an old man called George Fishley, this man was born in 1760, and he was 90 years old when an anonymous photographer took the image (on june 11th 1850).He was a soldier during the american revolution, if you want more information go to this website

Armand said...

just a mistake i think, its not joseph Niepce but Nicéphore Nièpce...

Greg said...

Thanks, Armand.

I see from Wikipedia that his name is "Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, also spelled Niepce."

Thanks for your information on this fascinating subject.

tomelom said...

I can't imagine that any older person have been photographed earlier than this. Conrad Heyer is probably the earliest-born subject of a photograph!? Don't you think?

Muhammad said...

Actually John Quincy Adams was the 1st/Yougest President to be phtogrpahed

Tomelom said...

Actually I've found one born earlier

Hannah Stilley Gorby is said to been born in 1746!!

Neil Eddinger said...

John Quincy Adams was the first U.S. president to be photographed. This was a year or two BEFORE the photograph of Jackson shown above.

jimboylan2 said...

Neither John Quincy Adams nor Andrew Jackson seem to have been photographed while they were incumbent in that Office.
Was the 1st United States President to be photographed while in that Office John Tyler or James Polk? They were either side of 1845.

Anonymous said...

I reckon Earl Grey would have to be the earliest born British PM to be photographed, and he was born in 1764.