Photography of People Began

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In 1838, Louis Daguerre took the earliest photograph of people known to exist. For the family historian trying to date old photographs, this is a key starting point.

"Boulevard du Temple" pictured above is a view of a busy street in Paris. The exposure time of these early "daguerreotype" photographs was at least ten minutes long, so the busy moving traffic left no trace. The only people to have stayed in one place long enough to be visible, were two men near the bottom left corner, one polishing the boots of the other.

Louis Daguerre first introduced the concept to the French Academy of Sciences in 1839. That same year, Robert Cornelius produced the first photographic self-portrait. Portrait studios started springing up the next year but would have been affordable only to the elite. 

The earliest surviving Irish photographs date from the 1840s. Within a year of Daguerre's invention, ‘photogenic drawings’ of Belfast buildings were being advertised for sale by the engraver and linen ornament manufacturer Francis Beatty.

Photomanina in Ireland, like most western countries, only truly began to take hold from the 1860s onwards (when the bulk of the most valuable and historically informative material in public collections today began). By 1870 Dublin had over seventy commercial studios and Belfast had fifteen. 


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