The first photographic image ever uploaded to the Web was a Photoshop disaster. It was created to sell something, and featured attractive women in a come-hither pose.
In short, photo-uploading was born with some original sins that have never quite washed away.
Here it is, in all its glory:
Next Wednesday, July 18th, the photograph at the center of that image — a homemade promotional shot for Les Horribles Cernettes, a comedy band based at the CERN laboratory near Geneva — will turn 20 years old. Despite the artifact’s world-historical significance, its full story has never been told. Few enthusiasts of art or photography or technology will be marking its 20th birthday, in no small part because it’s such an odd and un-artistic image.
“It’s sort of terrible and charming,” said Lesley Martin, a photo scholar at the Aperture Foundation, after being shown the image for the first time. But she added that that’s par for the course with photographic firsts. The first known photograph, for example, was of a semi-visible rooftop, seen through a window.
“They’re always semi-accidental and seemingly inconsequential at the time,” Martin told me. “The first photos are always, from the perspective of a sophisticated viewer today, somewhat non-events and of non-subjects.”
The first Web photo was no exception. It wasn’t even taken for the purposes of science or technology. The photographer, Silvano de Gennaro, was an IT developer at CERN who worked near Tim Berners-Lee and the other scientists who had invented the Web and made it public in 1991. But “I didn’t know what the Web was,” he recalled.
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