World's 'first photo' found

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The Independent Online
IT MIGHT be the world's oldest passport photograph. A faded but reasonably distinct image of the head and shoulders of a middle-aged man, discovered in the Paris flea market, is claimed to be the oldest "photograph" of a person.

Experts believe the image, actually a daguerreotype, was created in 1837 by the inventor of the process, Louis Daguerre. The picture, published yesterday by the magazine Etudes Photographiques, is thought to pre-date previously known daguerreotype portraits by three years. The subject is Nicolas Huet, a friend of Daguerre, and a moderately well-known painter of animals and collector of fossils and shells.

Historians previously believed Daguerre's techniques were incapable of producing an image of a human before 1840. The existence of his method, a refinement of techniques used to produce images of inanimate objects by Nicephore Niepce, was not announced until 1839. Niepce's work needed an eight-hour exposure time; Daguerre reduced this to two minutes.

The picture, 5.8cm by 4.5cm, was discovered earlier this year. Marc Pagneux, a collector, who bought it from its discoverer for an undisclosed sum, describes it as the "Turin Shroud of the photographic world".