I had some free time tonight and came across an article regarding the first known photograph of a human by Daguerre. Curiosity got the best of me, so I decided that I’d take a look and see if I encounter anyone else in the image. As I looked, I quickly realized that I would have to clean-up this image and make some further adjustments to reveal more detail. I figured that I was probably a perfect candidate for analysis as it relates to my line of work. What I ended up with was a colorized version of this Daguerreotype. I didn’t spend too much time refining the image – maybe a little over a hour tops. I’m certain I could spend days if I really wanted to get it just perfect, but for the purpose this suited it just fine.

Here is the original black and white image:


Boulevard du Temple by Daguerre

Direct download link if you’re having problems viewing this in your browser:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d3/Boulevard_du_Temple_by_Daguerre.jpg (right-click, save-as.)

Here is the colorized version of this photograph which helped bring out the details for me:

Colorized Boulevard du Temple by Daguerre

Colorized Boulevard du Temple by Daguerre

Direct download link if you’re having problems viewing this in your browser:

http://artwork.lunarlog.com/wp-content/uploads/Boulevard_du_Temple_by_Daguerre-colorized.jpg (right-click, save-as.)

Here is a version with my notes superimposed on top of the image noting my findings:

Boulevard du Temple by Daguerre with Notes

Boulevard du Temple by Daguerre with Notes

Direct download link if you’re having problems viewing this in your browser:

http://artwork.lunarlog.com/wp-content/uploads/Boulevard_du_Temple_by_Daguerre-color-notes.jpg (right-click, save-as.)

Here is an older article on the original black and white image:


In the end, I think I may have identified some additional people within this scene. I think I may have also identified the time of day and season. I can’t be 100% certain. In an ideal situation, I’d like to get my hands on the original plate in order to accurately scan it. That may bring out a little more detail, but I would imagine it would be minimal at best.

It would be great if other people would take a look at it and see if there’s anything that I missed.

UPDATE (11/1/2010)

Based on some very good observations and comments, I’ve made some updates to this image and highlighted other call-outs.

  1. I’ve changed the scene to spring for this version.
  2. I’ve removed the red from the street. It is most likely grey, but the grey makes the image slightly more difficult to interpret.
  3. The grass has been removed based on other, most recent photographs. I believe that this was probably a hard-packed clay instead.
  4. This might seem far-fetched, but a cat might be seen in a window (from Karen.)
  5. Based on a comment, I think that the person “getting his shoes shined” is actually someone at a water pump (thanks Coldcat.)  I believe there may be two buckets at his feet.
  6. Based on a comment by “Mik in Montague”, there seems to be someone sitting to the left of the wheelchair/baby carriage. I now believe that they’re sitting on a bench which is facing us.
  7. To the right (behind the carriage) seems to be another person sitting behind the carriage. I’ve made out the shape of what seems to be an arm. Sarlix may have commented on this earlier.
  8. I’ve just noticed that there may be a little person sitting, facing the carriage in between the two people at the bench.

Here is the latest revised image:

Boulevard du Temple by Daguerre Modified

Boulevard du Temple by Daguerre Modified 11/1/2010

Direct download link if you’re having problems viewing this in your browser:

http://artwork.lunarlog.com/wp-content/uploads/Boulevard_du_Temple_by_Daguerre-modified.jpg (right-click, save-as.)

Here is a close-up of the person at the “water pump”:

Boulevard du Temple Water Pump

Boulevard du Temple Water Pump

Here is a close-up of two (perhaps even three) people possibly sitting at a bench to the right of the person above. Please note that a lot of the fine noise and “blocks” in this image is due to JPEG compression. The only way to really remove the noise is to take a better look at the original JPEG (if available assuming that is hasn’t changed much) or to rescan the original plate image:

Boulevard du Temple Bench

Boulevard du Temple Bench


100 Responses to Colorized Boulevard du Temple by Daguerre

  1. Eric says:

    Followed your link from the comment on theatlantic article. Your colorized version of this photograph is really impressive. The ability to make out detail in the color photograph versus the original really accentuates the objects. Reminds me of some of the work I did in college in DSP for images.

  2. Sarlix says:

    The Cart or Stroller image defiantly looks like a person stood behind a babies pram to me. Nice work by the way :-)

  3. ColdCat says:

    The men is simply using/waiting at a water pump that’s why he stay so long.


  4. Chris says:

    Quite impressive. Good deductions. Although I personally wouldn’t paint my homes roof orange!

  5. carolyn says:

    this is great editing. wow. wish i would be your apprentice.

  6. cleo says:

    @Eric Thanks Eric! It’s honestly not the best job as I didn’t want to spend too much time on it. One could probably spend days pulling out almost every piece of noise, applying individual colors to each element, and dodging and burning others.

    At first, the intent was simply try to help distinguish one item from another, especially at the street level. But then I became a little carried away. ;)

    @Sar­lix Hi Sarlix. You’re probably correct. Some have said his captures took roughly 10 minutes – in that amount of exposure time, tree leaves blow, people, and horses move, etc. Applying my knowledge of long exposure times from taking HDR images, at about 20-30 seconds, usually a moving object is a blur. When you start increasing the time, moving objects such as people walking can become a complete blur.

    It’s hard for me to imagine someone leaving a baby or a stroller just sitting around. Chances are there is a person nearby that was moving enough that they may have not been captured.

    The image brings into even more questions. The guy standing there has one foot up on something. I really think he’s getting it shined. Could you stand naturally like that for 10 minutes (assuming it is 10 minutes) without moving significantly? I have no doubt this image took time to capture, but 10 minutes to achieve that result with him seems to be pushing the limits.

    Another thing to note are those near-black thigh-high blocks that are evenly-spaced along the road. I think they’re bollards to prevent horses and carriages from crossing the sidewalks. But they also might serve as a place for tying up carriages and horses. You’d think that this was a popular market area, and that you would at least see a horse and carriage waiting around but they’re completely absent.

    @Chris Ha. Thanks Chris. It looks more like a yellowish hue on my calibrated monitors (I calibrate roughly every two weeks.) I don’t have a degree in historical architecture, but in referencing multiple paintings from around the area it would probably be safe to assume that the roofing materials were often made out of wood. I saw a few paintings that had this coloring.

    Ultimately, it’s just an educated guess. It’s impossible to tell from this black and white image beyond a brick and beam pattern what types of wall and roof colors he would have seen.

    @car­olyn Thanks Carolyn for the compliment. I wish I had more free-time (as well as patience) to have brought this to the next level of hand-painting all of the individual elements.

  7. Christopher LeBlanc says:

    Great work! re: determining the time of day – the view is to the south-east so those are definitely evening shadows and if its autumn in Paris my guess is it’s probably close to 3-4pm :)

  8. cleo says:

    Thanks for adding some insight regarding the time of day! The sun is definitely not in the main view so assuming your direction is correct, then you would be right in saying it’s the afternoon which could also cast sharper shadows.

    There is a possibility it was taken in the spring. There’s a lot of small, barren trees however. Maybe they were sparse and blowing just enough to disappear in a long exposure? I’d think you’d see at least a few smaller ones throughout the image but I haven’t come across any which leads me to believe it was taken in autumn.

  9. John Freel says:

    Great work! A note on the bollards…it appears that is exactly what they are. They would have been concrete units serving multiple purposes. 1. Keep the horses and carriages on the street. 2. serve as a step to exist the carriage. 3. They were typicaly fitted with iron rings to tie up the horses. You will still find a few of these is “old town” districts of U.S. towns predating 1900.

  10. JoeK says:

    Just a quick note – directly down from the shoeshine guy and just before you get to the roof of the house in the foreground is what looks like the shoulders and head of another person. The rest of him/her is cutoff by the roof.

  11. cleo says:

    I don’t see that. I see a chimney however.

  12. cleo says:

    @John. Thanks John – how on Earth did you know so much about those details?

    I tried looking for the location of where this would have been taken – to see if there were any more remnants or clues. The boulevard in the original photograph bends – I think it appears in two places. One at the end of the photo, along the length, and it almost seems like there’s a cross-road in the foreground.

    I’ve tried looking for it on Google streetview, but I haven’t had any luck… Maybe somebody else can find this?

    View Larger Map

  13. dmcnish says:

    Your guess on the cobblestone street color might be very close. Many years ago I found a cobblestone in the US that was ballast on an old ship and its very close to that color. A type of granite I think.

  14. James Nicola says:

    There’s some more information on the photograph in this article – http://www.all-art.org/history658_photography13-2.html . It notes that Daguerre himself recorded that it was taken at eight o’clock in the morning.

  15. cleo says:

    Thanks for the article:
    “”Noon” wrote the photographer in his own hand under the picture on the left. “Huit heures du matin” (eight o’clock in the morning) is legible below the photograph with the shoeshine man – information that later formed the basis of the attempt to determine the exact date of the picture. Using contemporary maps and diagrams, and taking into account the length of the shadows and the camera position of 51 1/2 feet above the street, Peter von Waldhausen has been able to date the view of the boulevard to the period between 24 April and 4 May 1838. The identity of the shoeshine man and his customer, however, remain matters for speculation.”

    So the picture on the left-side was taken at 8:00 am, but no real guarantee of the one on the far right of the link you just presented which could have been taken at a different time.

    As for the season, it would be interesting to see how Peter came to that conclusion.

  16. cleo says:

    Here’s a comment thread on Gizmodo:

    Someone mentioned that the guy getting his shoe shined was at this location:

    View Larger Map

  17. will says:

    very nice. thank you very much.

  18. cleo says:

    Just when you think there’s nothing left to discover… Someone is saying that the image going around the web is inverted. Is it???

  19. Muchmor says:

    This picture is really cool. I copied this picture onto Google Earth in an overlay. Then zoomed in on….really interesting…the more you zoom into the picture….the closer the twp image is more definitely defined, try it you will like it.

  20. Tony says:

    I think the guy doing the shoe shining is pretty apparent…

  21. karen says:

    I think there’s a cat in the window in the foreground, the small window just below and to the right of the superimposed word “area.” Anyone else see that cat? and what’s in the window 2 up from there, with the blinds pulled partially open? a kid watching the photographers? another cat? were house cats the thing to do in 19th c paris?

  22. cleo says:

    How is this article certain that it is a water pump?

  23. A says:

    “It’s hard for me to imagine someone leaving a baby or a stroller just sitting around.” I agree. However, people do this in Denmark today, so it’s possible.

  24. Alex Alexander says:

    It takes away from the beauty of the Black/White Image

  25. acey says:

    Fantastic! I love the annotations on the colorized image. Well done!

  26. cleo says:

    @A Keep in mind that in order to produce these images, it took 5-60 minutes to expose. In that amount of time, if someone walks around, they will disappear from the picture. If there’s only slight movement for that duration, then it might show up as a blur.

    In this area, there were probably a lot more people walking about as well as horses and carriages moving. The question is, did anyone else stay still long enough that it shows up solidly?

    If it was a stroller, there could very well be a person that was moving around it as the picture developed. It could also be a wheelchair. I think there looks like there’s two wheels there.

    @Alex Alexan­der I agree. I wasn’t trying to produce something that was better or beautiful – if that was the case, I could have spent several days on refining this image – removing noise by hand, tracing more carefully, and really spending the time to work individual colors onto individual objects. The coloring was only done merely to help me differentiate objects within the noisy original.

  27. Badeu says:

    Hi, really nice work. It’s weird to watch such an old picture of a street I ride nearly everyday.

    Concerning the color of parisian paved streets, they’re not made with bricks but with little carved stones and usually are light grey.

    For the sidewalk, there is another chance to be beige more than green if they’re made with clay like other larges avenues and parks.

    A picture of that :

    Agrandir le plan

  28. cleo says:

    @Badeu Very interesting. I left the street red because it helped separate the rest of the objects, but I think you are correct.

    I would have assumed the green was a grassy area because there were a lot of trees. I didn’t see any indication of planters surrounding them. I wouldn’t have thought these were planted directly in clay. I really appreciate you pointing this out.

  29. KenC says:

    I doubt it was red brick on the street, it appears to be too large. Rather it would likely be gray cobbles. And, rather than Fall, it could be any season as the small trees could be dead. Small trees often don’t survive. Besides, the other trees look quite lush, it’d be odd for some trees to already have lost all their leaves while others are lush.

    I don’t see any other people, the three unidentifiable notations look like treetrunks. Look at the spacing between the other trees. It’s quite regular. And, they’re in a line. The stroller could just as easily be a street cleaner’s handcart, as it seems a tad larger than any old strollers I’ve seen, which tend to be rather fragile looking.

  30. KenC says:

    The green areas as grass is doubtful. It’s more likely to be hardpacked earth, that could be swept. A light brown gray color. The trees would be planted straight into this, no planter, no demarcation whatsoever.

    About the dog and child, I think that’s a stick planted next to a small tree, just like you see with many of the trees on the nearer side of the street.

  31. GeorgeN says:

    Thanks for your posting. Interesting to read your commments. I took a look, and think their could be a few other people pictured, though they are not truly distinct. I’m not convinced about the season though. For one, I would expect still fewer leaves, and two, I would expect the traces of more smoke from the chimneys. Only one in the foreground shows any activity. (Yes, smoke moves, but a constant stream would leave a trace as it does above the one chimney). Summer heat would account for the trees as they are, foliage, and some that didn’t make it. also for those windows that are apparently open on the sunny sides of buildings.

    Do take a look at those exposed roofing rafters. I believe there are hints that some of those shapes visible toward the top and toward the right are workers. At least they do appear so to my eyes after playing with the original. Also, toward the left of the photo, on the right side of that building with the illegible sign, there appears to be a person standing on a balcony; again, it appears so to me. What do you think?

    One more possibility, on the roof top terrace in the forground toward the center of the photo, but on the right of the terrace, there is a ghost of an image that could be a woman hanging laundry. Ok, maybe my imagination is running away with me, but do take a look. I was having fun with a few more of the “ghosts,” including one that hints at a carriage and horses, but it’s hard to be definite. We’re too spoiled by hi-res mult-megapixeled images!

  32. peter owen says:

    I am so fascinated by all of this!!!

  33. kd says:

    I agree that the man probably is at a water pump, not getting a shoe-shine.

    I’m also very impressed with the composition of the photograph. Makes me think the photographer was influenced by painters of the period.

  34. G says:

    Is it possible that the man with his leg up is cleaning his shoes using a scraper which removes mud and other, less pleasant things?

  35. Barry says:

    Is it possible the cart to the right of the man is someone using a wheelchair?

  36. I actually see something that could be a face at the left second floor window, right pane. Perhaps it’s just something hanging in the window.

    It appears there may be someone sitting on a chair or bench next to the wagon, though, why would there be a bench there when there are no other benches in that area?

    And, if you notice all the trees with support frames around them, I’m beginning to believe that the thing people think is a water pump may actually be another tree. And the bulky thing next to it is a wagon? Can you see the wheels? And based on the shadow he’s throwing (follows his body and his out-stretched leg) the shadow next to his makes it appear there’s something in the wagon. Perhaps a kid, sitting up? Could be a wheel chair, too.

    I’m not sure I agree about the time of year, either. There are plenty of non-denuded trees in the photo, and they don’t appear to be fir. Perhaps the other trees are either new plants, or dead? There doesn’t appear to be any leaves on the ground. Either they all blew away, or the street cleaner is quite aggressive on the fallen leaves front.

    And what are all those pot-like things lining the street? Barricades to stop the house drawn carriages from storming the sidewalk, or trash cans? Rain buckets?

    Such fun to scrutinize. Thanks!

  37. cleo says:

    Here’s a new NPR link to this article:

    @KenC I agree now that it’s probably hard-packed earth based one what others had posted – a beige clay.

    @Geor­geN Smoke from a chimney would dissipate and blow around. In this long exposure, there’s a good chance it would have disappeared. But I agree that the season was difficult to determine. I took a little bit of artistic license in making it an autumn scene.

    As for people in the rafters – so much of this is very hard to tell. I have no doubt there were more people moving around the area but the long exposure would have accounted for their disappearance.

    @peter owen I agree – I think it turned into a lot more fun for a lot of us than expected. It’s the historical version of “Where’s Waldo?”

    @kd I agree that it really is a remarkable composition. I don’t think many photographers today with a digital camera could pull an image like this off. I didn’t realize it at first until I spent some time looking at it.

    I think you’re right but I’d also add that some of the painterly qualities in this colorized photograph appear “painterly” mainly because the original lacks a lot of definition. It’s high contrast with very little “grayscale values.” If the lines were more defined and less noisy, I think it would appear more like a photograph versus a painting.

    @G Due to the exposure time, that would have to be a very long process of mud removal while standing still.

    @Barry A few others mentioned this. It could be. I’d think we’d have to look at carts, strollers, and wheelchairs from this period and France in order to compare.

    @Mik in Montague I can see what you’re looking at. It’s just so hard to determine.

    I think you’re right on the person sitting on the bench next to the wagon/stroller!!! And there’s a person with a missing head sitting next to that person, but you can see her arm!!!!!! We have a face!!! We have a bench! That is an awesome find!

    “I’m beginning to believe that the thing people think is a water pump may actually be another tree.” That begs the question as to why someone would put their foot up against a tree for several minutes and hold it there. I tend to think it’s a pump or someone getting their shoes shined.

    “And what are all those pot-like things lining the street? Barricades to stop the house drawn carriages from storming the sidewalk, or trash cans?” I think we’ve determine that they are exactly that – “bollards” as myself and another commenter pointed out:

  38. The street is most likely not brick, but granite paving blocks, a far more common street surface from that era. See a pic of this type of stone here: http://rssy.com/images/4x4x8-cobble.jpg

  39. cleo says:

    @Dawn M. Shepherd Hey Dawn. Thanks for the comment. A couple of others pointed out something similarly. It was left red originally to help distinguish objects.

    I updated the image (and article now) to include more information and some changes. There might be a third person (a kid) on the bench!!!

  40. Tom says:

    There is a four story building in the middle or upper middle left side of the daguarreotype. On the side of the building is a painted advertisement. Though the characters in the sign are blurry, I believe the three characters in the second line from the bottom make the number “104.” If this is correct, then the whole photo has been reversed.

  41. karen says:

    yikes, now i see the guy on the bench, maybe watching the photographer, minding the baby while his wife shops for silk stockings. one leg is up on his knee.
    i also totally see mik in montague’s man’s face in the glass pane. what you have circled as a cat i think is a kid, the cat is 2 windows down from there.
    i thought i saw a woman’s face, with big puffy hair on to of her head. she’s crossing the street, face is to the right and above of where you have annotation “almost looks like.” but the scale would be off, if it was a face it should be smaller.

  42. John L says:

    While it may be off the “first-human” topic, I just thought I’d mention this. For all the enhancing that’s been done, there’s one significant thing that hasn’t been done in order to view the scene as it would have looked from the window where the picture was taken.

    Daguerreotypes are mirror images of the actual scene being photographed. You need to flip the picture, left-to-right, in order to see what Daguerre was looking at out that window. And if you flip the picture, you can make out some of the writing on the side of the one building, such as “104 Rue de la (something)” Perhaps someone more versed in French than I am could make out some more.

    The switch in orientation may, or may not, change how other features are viewed and/or deciphered.

  43. John L says:

    As far as the time of day, I found another blog [http://www.alscotts.com/daguerrotype/] where the author claims that while the date of the daguerreotype is unknown, it IS known to have been taken at 8 am. If you are judging by the direction the shadows are falling, flipping the Daguerreotype indeed matches with it as being morning, not evening.

    When you flip the daguerreotype, I believe it matches up with this: View Larger Map

    First, let me say that Boule­vard du Tem­ple is a relatively short road, so there isn’t a lot of places this could be along it. The bottom of the daguerreotype is the intersection of Boule­vard du Tem­ple and Place de la République. You will see that if you turn the Google image 180 degrees. Place de la République is the bend in the road to the bottom left in the daguerreotype. You will also see the incline of the Boule­vard du Tem­ple depicted in the daguerreotype.

    Now, with the Google image in it’s original orientation, I believe the building on the right side of the street, to the left of the Bourse du Travail storefront, and with a slate blue/gray roof is the same building in your colorized, non-flipped version that is touched by your caption words “Street color…”. The number of windows (7) along the building’s front, above the roof-line is the same. The set of smaller windows (5 of them) above those windows seems to line up with the daguerreotype, too, as do the windows down the side of the building. Granted, there are no chimneys, but they were most likely removed in a modernization of the building and it’s roof.

    That building (the only match I could find) with it’s windows (dormers) in the roof along the front and the side, plus the curve in the road, and the incline at the beginning of Boule­vard du Tem­ple (the only incline I could see in Google street-view along that road) lead me to believe that my Google image falls about half-way up the road as depicted in the daguerreotype.

    The biggest problem in seeing the whole view in Google, is that if you go to the intersection of Boule­vard du Tem­ple and Place de la République to look up the street, the street-level trees obstruct the view. Plus, you really need an elevated view to line up with what Daguerre saw. Only having street-level or directly overhead viewing options in Google just muddles things.

    One thing I’d like to correct from my previous post is I now believe the sign on that building says “104 Rue du (something)” rather than “104 Rue de la…”. The French can get picky about masculine vs. feminine tenses. LOL

  44. cleo says:

    @John L Previously, I had mentioned this in the comments.

    @John L I saw that link. It’s one study which doesn’t necessarily reflect accurate conclusions.

    “The biggest problem in see ing the whole view in Google, is that if you go to the intersection of Boulevard du Temple and Place de la République to look up the street, the street-level trees obstruct the view. Plus, you really need an elevated view to line up with what Daguerre saw. Only having street-level or directly over head viewing options in Google just mud dles things.”

    I agree that the trees are the biggest impediment to matching the views. Plus, without access to whatever building is in the current location or a crane, it’s somewhat pointless other than for potential reference.

    So much of what existed has been replaced within the past 150+ years.

    As for the sign, I’m surprised you could make out any of that text.

  45. John L says:

    I looked a bit further and found this street-viewView Larger Map looking up Boule­vard du Tem­ple from the bend at Place de la République that is unobstructed by trees. I believe the man was getting his shoes shined on the corner at the left of the picture. You can see the building with the slate blue/gray roof up the block on the right. And to the far right you can clearly see the inclined slope of the street.

  46. GeorgeN says:

    As Tom noted above, the image is indeed reversed, in true “camera obscura” fashion. Flip the image horizontally to view the street in it’s proper orientation. The view is towards the southwest, with the morning sun shining in from the left. As for the sign in question, he correctly read the numbers. That particular line reads “104 Rue (de or le) ???” [104 “Unknown” Street). The first word below it is “Huile” [oil]. The line above it reads “de M. Axmes” [of Mr. Axmes]. It is apparently an advertisement.

    By the way, the original dagguerreotypes would give a reversed (negative) image if rotated slightly. Doing this in your image viewer can help to bring out a few details. By the way, if you look carefully above the low roof in the foreground, you can see several “ghost” heads. Not as clear as the man having his shoes shined, but they stood there gawking long enough to be seen. I wouldn’t be surprised if that really is a child’s face in the upper window across the street, the one with the curtain held open. A curious child is likely to stand and stare much longer than an adult would.

  47. GeorgeN says:

    One more note. Looking at some other web sites on this image, the original has evidently been lost. What we’re looking at is the reproduction of a copy made in the 1930’s. That might account for some of the “noise” and lack of clarity.

  48. cleo says:

    @Geor­geN Thanks for all that information. I think we should also add another first: “First photograph of an advertisement” lol.

  49. philnext says:

    French study with 2002 new print from the same place :

  50. michel says:

    Très bon travail, il me semble cependant que les toits des immeubles haussmanniens devraient avoir la couleur du zinc et non de la tuile.

  51. michel says:

    Sorry I wrote my comment in French. I said good work but I guess the roofs of the haussmannian buildings (top left)should be grey as they are made of zinc.

  52. cleo says:

    Hi Michel. Thank you very much. No need to apologize for using French – that’s why I put a translate button at the top of this website. Besides, it’s a beautiful language. :)

  53. Q says:

    It appears that you may have missed a person at the lower right under the red awning (facing left). Leg, foot, arm, and head seems clearly visible.

  54. cleo says:

    Near the foreground tree in the lower right? I can see something there too that resembles a person standing. We really need a better scan of the original – assuming that the original still exists.

  55. Phil Amend says:

    Since I became fascinated with this photograph a week and a half ago (like many, I believe, drawn in by the recent news story on the US daguerrotype), I have been using some spatial filtering techniques to get a clearer view of the advertisement/sign on the side of the building in the distance and can contribute the following:

    104 RUE DE/DU ?
    HUILE ?????

    My real find is the arched MEILLEUR (Translation: BEST or SUPERIOR) at the top of the sign pretty much confirming this as an advertisement for some type of product (an oil cure?) Credit for ‘HUILE’ and ‘DU’ goes to GeorgeN above. I independently came up with the rest and believe ARMES or ALMES would be more likely French names although AXMES does fit the image.

    My guess is that the street name may be abbreviated. For example, 104 RUE DU T. (for 104 Rue du Temple).

    I am pretty sure that with the right sharpening and filtering process (and some expertise on 1838 Parisian ads) this sign can be fully retrieved providing an interesting historical reference.

    By the way, I believe I have found 2 or 3 additional people that can be seen just to the left of the sign (peering out of the windows of the building – especially the window immediately to the left of the sign – enlarging the image is necessary to see these).

  56. James says:

    Do you notice a little boy looking out the 3rd floor window in the white building? He seemed to be staring at what Daguerre was doing with his camera in front of the white building. I have looked for a white building in the today’s photo and Google Street View photo but could not find it. Do you know where is the white building in the Google Street View photo? The white building seemed to be torn down and replaced with newer buildings while the other older buildings are still standing that Daguerre took this picture in 1838.

  57. James says:

    Number 4 under “Update (11/1/2010)” above saying the cat might be seen in the window that is an actual boy pulling the curtain aside and looking out the window in the white building, not the cat.

    The other day I looked at the Daguerre’s photo, someone saw a horse-drawn carriage parking along the sidewalk on the street farther (in the background of this photo, just above the white building with a black tall chimney – a black dot that where the horse-drawn carriage parking is) from the shoe shiner boy and his customer at the corner of that street. I looked at it for a minute or so until I found it and that might be a horse standing with its horse-drawn carriage there. You need to look at it for a minute or so until you will find it. If it is, that is interesting!

  58. Phil Amend says:


    I also believe that to be a curious little boy or girl pulling back the drapes and looking out the window at Daguerre’s unusual activities. You can almost make out his/her ears, eyes and hair on a small round face.

    This is the period of the July Monarchy (1830-1848) with King Louis-Philippe I and Prime Minister Count Molé as well as cultural figures such as Victor Hugo, de Balzac and George Sand/Chopin.

    In that context, imagine for a moment the world inside that room from which the child is peering out: no electricity, no television, no radio, no computers, no Internet. Wooden floors, candles and gas lights, the smell of lit fireplaces and hearths. Information delivered by newspaper and human interaction. The lilt of spoken French wafting up and down the staircase. Relative silence and tranquility interrupted only by early-19th-century levels of street noise in the form of horse-drawn carriages. And then, across the street…like a time machine, a brilliant inventor slices in with a 20th-century technology and captures this world we weren’t normally meant to see. Fascinating and poignant somehow…

    The Wikipedia page for this photograph also points to what looks like a woman’s face visible in the lower-right-hand-corner of the small 3rd window down from the top of the 1st column of windows.

    As far as the existence of the white building today – it appears that it was eventually torn down but used to stand on what is now the middle of Place de la République (see this wonderful 2002 French study posted by philnext above.)

  59. Phil Amend says:

    Here is the link to that 2002 French study again:


  60. cleo says:

    Thank you for all of your comments. I’m fascinated and amazed at how others continue to find items within this image. It has been a very fun detective game for many of us.

    As for a girl or a boy pulling aside the curtain – it could very well be, but I find the details extremely hard to determine unlike the person standing at the pump and the people sitting on the bench.

  61. James says:

    Phil Amend-

    Thanks for your comment and information on the Boulevard Du Temple website. I have checked that website out for more information on the 1830s old map of Paris and Place de le Republique area. It seems to me that the fountain pool in the Place de le Republique area where the white building was once stood. I wish the white building could have still stood today as Daguerre took his picture in 1838 and could visit the Place de la Republique area as a tourist.

    People lived during that time – no indoor toilet or shower (the outdoor toilet and shower should be located somewhere behind the buildings), no running water (they would have to travel a few blocks away or even 1 kilometer to the nearest water wells or a river or even a canal – you could see it on the 1830s Paris map) to collect water and bring it back to the apartment buildings, no refrigerator, no toilet paper, no towel paper, telephone or cell phones, no dogs or cats allowed in the apartment buildings because of fleas, etc., a few schools for children as the French law did not required for them to attend schools and no air conditioning, etc.

    As for a woman’s face visible in the window in that photo, I looked at it all but did not see the woman’s face in that window. I saw the only little boy peering out the 3rd floor window in the white building and about four persons in the photo. Also, after someone said he or she saw the horse-drawn carriage in the street (other website) the other day, I think I saw (barely visible) a horse standing with its horse-drawn carriage parking along the sidewalk in the street (above the white building’s roof with a black dot in the center of the horse-drawn carriage).
    Have you tried to look at it and found it yet?

    The 1838 Parisian Everyday Life in that photo, the shoe shine boy would have to come out to work on the street all day (if he would not have to go to school) and earns a little money – few French coins (probably less than 5 Centimes or 5 cents per customer during that period) everyday in order to support his poor family. The shoe shine boy and his family probably lived in the white apartment building just like the peering boy in the window who lived there while the other three people – a man, a woman and a baby that are sitting on a bench there could be a middle-class family and the other person who could get shoe shined from the shine shoe boy could be a wealthy man.

    The 1838 Daguerre photo is an interesting photo with human figures! I wish I could get the Daguerre photo reproduction frame(the bigger size just like the one above) from his original photo and hang on the wall in my office or home.

  62. James says:


    I saw an actual little boy pulling the curtain aside and peering out the 3rd window floor in the white building because he had a short hair with his visible ears (somewhat blurry when his face with ears moved slightly), eyes and mouth.

    Have you seen (barely visible) or find a horse standing with its horse-drawn carriage parking along the sidewalk in the street (above the white building’s roof with a black dot in the center of the horse-drawn carriage) in the photo? I could barely see it there.

  63. James says:

    Phil Amend-

    I would have said “no telephones or no cell phones in the second paragraph above.

  64. James says:

    Phil Amend-

    I forgot to add no social security, no health insurance, etc. for people there during that period in the second paragraph. We can imagine we would continue working until we have time to stop working when we are older enough and then we would ask our adult children to support us with their money, food, etc.

  65. cleo says:

    @James – great writing – it really sets the mood for living in that time. I do wonder if this was considered a “wealthier” neighborhood back then. Perhaps if it was, there might have been a greater emphasis on education in that area.

    I think you have a good point about the likelihood of keeping pets around back then.

    Also, I think some people feel that the “shoe shining person” is somehow demeaning. In my opinion, it is a job and we all have to make a living. I personally do not look down upon someone in that position as we all have to make ends meet somehow.

    That being said, I tend to believe it is a water pump now as I think that I can make out buckets at the person’s feet.

    As for the image, I haven’t taken a look again this weekend as I’ve been fairly swamped with work and writing. I will take a look later.

  66. GodsDawn says:

    I believe that there is a boy, or man, to the left of the big white building. There is a sign at the corner of the building and what appears to possibly be stairs along side the building. The person looks as though they may be on the 3rd step and they have their head hung down (they are facing the building or even possibly an alley? where there might be conversing with a hidden person). I also noticed that if you were to continue up the stairs there seems to be a very visible leg and a faint image of the rest of the body of someone under the awning. I would be interested in your comments to my observations.

  67. GodsDawn says:

    the more I look that the image of that person, it seems as though a rope is thrown over his shoulder and attached to a water bucket.

  68. GodsDawn says:

    ….my apologies, to the LEFT of the big white building.

  69. GodsDawn says:

    oh no, it is to the RIGHT……

  70. James says:


    I think the shoeshine boy could be behind the water pump there and would use it for cleaning customers’ shoes or boots or something like that along with his small cart (shoeshine supplies). It looks like he was about to get his customer’s boots shoeshined. There were numerous shoeshine boys in dark clothes in city streets like this photo in the 19th century to earn money to support their families.

  71. Phil Amend says:

    Just to clarify: It is in a CORRECTLY ORIENTED photo (with Boulevard du Temple running to the RIGHT of the white building) that the woman’s face is visible in the lower-right-hand-corner of the small 3rd window down from the top of the 1st column of windows. However, if you are looking at the horizontally-reversed image (as in the colorized versions above), then she would be found in the lower-left-hand-corner of the small 3rd window down from the top of the 2nd column of windows.

  72. James says:

    I have been looking at this Daguerre black and white photograph and studying persons and other things at the street corner. I believe that there is a shoeshine boy with a cap behind a small denuded tree and a water pump (possibly) and a small cart with two wheels that are all in several different positions closely together next to a man who is about to get shoeshined by a shoeshine boy.

    About the horse standing with its horse-drawn carriage parking along the sidewalk in the street that could be barely visible, try to look at it for a minute or more until you find it: It is located at top left of the top tall black chimney on the white building’s roof, between the two trees by several buildings across the street from the other buildings above the white building – a black dot that where the horse standing with its horse-drawn carriage is located. You need to enlarge 100% image so you could look at it and find it. Please let me know if you find it.

  73. James says:

    Check out Bing map website:
    Type “Place de la Republique Paris” in the search section and click to find a word “aerial” in a gray section top left of the map and scroll down to click Bird’s Eye and then you see the Place de le Republique area, including Boulevard du Temple above. Awesome! This information on the Bing website seems to be more clearly (esp. Bird’s eye) than the other online maps or some 19th Century Paris maps.

  74. Nice work. I have enjoyed the improvements! Can you put it up without the comments to see better?

    Couple of additions: the photo is a mirror image and you can tell that by the writing on the wall. I can make out a 104 RUE something. Obviously the name of a firm on top with their address below. In the original, there seems to be woman at 10:00 from the man shining his shoes. She is under the lamp post. Seems to have gone, or you cleaned it up and she was not there. I need to be careful for reading more into the photo than is there.

  75. leonard says:

    The time of day can be determined if you know the direction of the view. I can tell you with 99% certainty that is towards the east because of the curve of the boulevard. This means the Seine is far off to the right

    If you know Paris light and the length of shadows at different seasons of the year the season will become apparent.

  76. Jim says:

    I’ve been staring at the water pump figure and I think I may have a version of events. I think there’s someone squatting or sitting on a bucket ‘behind’ the pump: they’ve been pumping (you’d sit down after that exertion). His friend or maybe just a passer-by has stopped to chat and has his foot on one of the buckets of pumped water while they have their conversation. Looking at the standing figure, he has his hands behind his back which looks natural in conversation. I’d almost certainly say that this isn’t a shoe-shining image.

    I can imagine the second man on his haunches, shuffling the buckets around, as the standing man talks about the lovely weather or the theatre or maybe the fire that gutted the house in the middle of the photo. Fascinating…

  77. ringoesq says:

    the man by the “shoe shining water pump” may have been mr daquerre himself or an accomplice, striking a static pose for several minutes of camera exposure in order to produce a clear and definite figure outline.

  78. David says:

    What about the chatting couple on the roof(?) at the front?
    Or am I imagining things?

  79. Maybe it helps if you look at a second picture Daguerre made at midday. It can be found at:
    http://www.stanford.edu/~njenkins/archives/2007/08/traces.html, it clears up the shoe shine discussion.

  80. Also there are at least three houses still standing, they can be visited using google street view, just read this: http://www.niepce-daguerre.com/boulevard_du_Temple_de_dag.html.

  81. cleo says:

    @David. Wow, I think you might have seen someone “hiding” in plain sight.

    One thing I find really fascinating is how crowdsourcing these images has turned up so many unexpected results. A “normal” photograph these days probably wouldn’t turn up this much interest.

    I would probably conclude without a shadow of a doubt that this is the very first photograph of people – not just a single person as initially thought.

    @Rob. I wish there was a larger scan of that image!

  82. Matheus Parisotto says:

    In the beanch next to the cart, it’s very clar for me the face of a men, it’s possibe to see his eyes, nose, and beard, and a bada head.

    And that’s not a water pump, it’s a boy behind a young tree (I don’t know how to cal it in engish), because there is one other picture made os this same view, and it’s very clear that there is no water pump.

    And by the way, you did a really great job coirizing this picture!!

  83. Matheus Parisotto says:

    This picture is amazing. It was made just 22 years after the end of the napoeonic wars, maybe the mens in boevard could be napoenic war veterans

  84. Very, very interesting. Quite possibly THE most interesting photograph ever, as it is SUCH a tremendously long time ago. We can’t even imagine. Think about it; at the exact time that this photo was taken, today’s modern cities like Los Angeles and San Franscisco were small, sleepy towns by the border to Mexico. Persons in this picture that were 24 years of age and up had actually lived during Napoleon and some were probably veterans.

    When this picture was taken, great historical figures like Abraham Lincoln were still young. I believe Lincoln was still a lawyer at this time.

    The majority of the young soldiers who would fight in the American Civil War were yet to be born.

    Check out this link I found. Oh and by the way, since the photo was a Daguerretype, it was reversed. To keep the angle and realism up to date, you should move it the other way round.

    Here’s the link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/emanistan/4298578797/

  85. Walther says:

    Will check later in the year when over in Paris again. But isn’t there a water trough along the bvd. near place de la République? It is where the pavement rises above the road and passes by Chez Jenny? It might be this which shows where the pump had been. Love this area from Bastille all the way up to Canal Saint Martin.

  86. Randi says:

    The man is actually getting a shoe shine – it is not a water pump…in addition, it is technically not the first photograph by a human….the first photograph was taken ca. 1824 or 26 by Niepce.

  87. Photo Kid says:

    It is incorrect to say that this was the first photo ever. It was not. The first photo that was developed and taken was by Nicephore Niepce in 1824 (View from Window at Le Gras). It was a heliograph. Daguerre came afterwards. Just clarifying as a history and photography enthusiast.

  88. cleo says:

    @Photo Kid: It is the first “known” photograph of “people” (multiple) which is correct.

  89. Simon says:

    The second picture is very helpful. Given the position of the curtains, I think that really is a small child – more than likely intrigued by what the man in the window of the building opposite is doing with that funny box! It would explain why the kid was able to stay still for so long.

    I wonder if the clearly visible cart parked on the edge of the street is the same one we saw parked on the sidewalk in the more famous photo – perhaps here folded up, while it was opened for display on the sidewalk.

    Another clue that hasn’t been discussed very much is that the human figures (shoeblack and customer) cast a shadow in the shape of a lowercase h, which might help determine the angle they were standing/sitting. The round protrusion from the shadow is visible in both pictures and is probably a depression in the pavement or some other marking.

    And yes, that’s a sapling, not a water pump.

  90. Zach says:

    I was looking at the photo on the white building under the cat in the window note it looks like u can see a man looking out the 2nd storie window or it may be 2 people cant tell

  91. Caligula says:

    hauss­mann???? Crétin des alpes, c’est en juin 1853 l’Empereur Napléon III lui confie la mission d’assainir et d’embellir Paris …

  92. Joe says:

    amazing! But, I found 3-6 more people at the (market stalls)? One man looks like he is bending on a counter, another next to him on the right, and two more behind them. I also saw some other figures.

  93. RE Hutch says:

    Cleo, Thank you for posting this. I came across this site from a VSauce link. I spent some time thinking about how this was a slice of history and trying to imagine how things were back when that photo was taken. It was a trip to the past and I never left my home.
    I was unable to view the colorized pictures in their entirety, I don’t know if it was my browser (Chrome or IE (both up to date)) or what the problem was. Nor was I able to download the pictures. Right clicking just gave the option to DL a Link. Perhaps you could see about making the colorized and notated images more easily downloadable?
    Also, on the closest building in the foreground (the building with the boy/cat in the window.) On the side of the building towards the road there appears to be some kind of skeletonized structure at the top, almost like it would support the cloth on a covered wagon. Any idea what this is? Or even guesses?
    I enjoyed the work you did on this photo. Perhaps one day you can get a better scan of the original or have someone with access to some serious photo enhancement equipment take a look at it.
    I really enjoyed this page and all the great comments. It kept me day dreaming for a few hours.

  94. Nat Moons,CVV says:

    The man in the image is not either shoeshining or by a water pump.
    The upper part of the leg is too high for him to be shoe shining
    The “water pump” is nothing else but a wood pole holding a new planted tree.
    In the internet you can find another Daguerre taken a few hours apart with nobody
    on it and a lot of wood poles holding new planted trees. So what?!
    Our imagination tends to complicate the reality that he his there standing in one leg
    & stepping in something to move the least possible during the 10-15 minutes of the s exposure. In the first pole/tree a slight blur caused it look like a water pump.
    So states the Count of Valverde who was there in 1838.

  95. Erin says:

    If you follow the cat in the window around to the back of the house, there appears to be a balcony with a woman doing laundry.

  96. Tobias says:

    At the window under the boy in the white building.
    At the floor under, at both windows you can see 4 faces. (2 at both)
    At the left window it’s not as easy to see the faces but you can clearly see an eye at the left of the left window. (Under the little boy). At the window to the right of there, it is easy to see a face. (maybe 2 if you can)The face which is easiest to see is the face to the far right of the right window. (Under the little boy).
    The man to the right of the left window under the little boy, You can see his clothes and everything!
    Please let me know if you saw them!
    If you didn’t see them, i want you to take a closer look.

  97. Tobias says:

    Sorry if i described wrong.
    At the two windows under the third floor, under the little boy.
    The second floor i will say.

  98. Tobias says:

    They were probably also looking at what Daguerre were doing.
    One will also never know if it was the same apartment or not.

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