French inventor Joseph Nic├ęphore Ni├ępce was one of the pioneers of photography, and in 1826, he took what is now the oldest surviving photograph with his camera obscura. Can you identify the subject depicted in the photo?

What's impressive is that, fuzzy as it is, the photo does present an identifiable image. The photograph is titled "View from the Window at Le Gras," and its subject is the roof and building of Ni├ępce's countryside estate in Saint-Loup-de-Varennes. He covered a polished pewter plate with bitumen of Judea, placed it inside his camera obscura, and uncapped the lens in front of a window. The photo is the result of an eight-hour exposure, which is why the building is illuminated on both sides. This heliograph is the earliest-known permanent photograph.


Ni├ępce tried and failed to interest the Royal Society in heliography, and ended up gifting the photograph to a botanist. It was eventually acquired by photohistorian Helmut Gernsheim, who tasked the Kodak Research Center with making a reproduction of Ni├ępce's work. It currently resides at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas in Austin.

The First Photograph [Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center via The Smithsonian via mental_floss]