Maxwell Grantly

Magical stories from an independent author

Boulevard du Temple, Paris

Recently I have been researching Victorian photography, in preparation for my latest ebook: Fingers and the Dream Thief.

Fingers (the main character) is a shoe shine boy who seeks shelter in the town’s orphanage: a friendly and caring establishment funded by a local wealthy photographer. I just had to search the Internet, looking for one photograph that I knew had been taken.

This it is:

Boulevard du Temple

This photograph is a streetscape view of the Boulevard du Temple, Paris, taken in 1838 by Louis Daguerre. It is, in my opinion, one of the most remarkable photographs ever taken. At this time, the sensitivity of the chemicals of the photographic plate was primitive and so the shutter of the camera had to be left open for several minutes in order for an image to be formed. This meant that many early photographs only were basic records of still objects or places; it was simply impractical for any moving image to be recorded without some form of blurring.

Now, if you focus your eyes very carefully in the lower left-hand quadrant of the picture, at the end of the pavement, you can see the faint remains of an upright gentleman with his foot raised upon a shoeshine block. This important fellow will forever remain anonymous in history but he holds a very important accolade: he holds the record for being the first ever person to be recorded photographically.

The background to his achievement was very simple one: he was simply pausing for several minutes to have his shoes shone. He remained stationary for sufficient time so that his image became inadvertently recorded for prosperity. It is also thought that the blur to his side is the image of the shoe shiner who was polishing his shoes at the time.

I find it fascinating to recount the background to this important part of photographic history. What I find even more remarkable is that this man continued to walk upon his way, after the image was recorded, so that his identity could never be known. You are left wondering what the story line could be behind his journey or the fate of the shoe shiner who attended to this chore.

When I decided upon the plot of Fingers (a shoe shiner) and added a photographic studio as the main setting, it was impossible not to bring a reference to this photograph to the storyline. I hope that I may have done it justice.


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