A little tired from an early train ride south from Paris, we arrived at a small town to meet the river boat for a weeklong cruise through Burgandy and Provence. On a taxi ride to the dock, I caught a glimpse of a statue in the center of town with a familiar name – Niepce. Looking back I noticed that he was standing with a camera and nearby was a photography museum. After a quick search in the guidebook, I realized that I was in Chalon-sur-Rhone, the birthplace of photography!
Of course, I should have known that but that’s what I get not doing any prior homework on the trips that Joanne so thoughtfully plans for us. We quickly dumped our bags, grabbed my camera and headed to the museum before it closed. In 1826 or 1827 in this very town, Nicephore Niepce created what is credited to be the world’s first photograph.
Among the historical collection of photographs and equipment was that very camera credited to taking that first photograph which is now on display at the University of Texas in Austin. Next to the camera, the museum had a facsimile of that first photograph displayed on an tablet, photography had surely come a long way.
From that one image, someone calculated in 2011 that we humans have taken close to 4 trillion photos (yes, trillions) and counting. There are over 2.5 billion camera phones. Instagram alone has over 5 billion photos and 55 million photos uploaded every day. As of 2013, 350 million photos are uploaded to Facebook daily, and users have uploaded more than 250 billion photos. As of 2014, we share over 1.8 billion photos per day.
On the bookshelf in my studio there’s an old book from 1850 that I bought at a flea market a long time ago. It was an annual encyclopedia that caught my interest solely because of the last paragraph, referring to the new invention of photography. It read that it will have very limited appeal, perhaps in portraiture only. That was about to change, and change the world with it.