from left: Angela Higney, Michele de Gennaro, Colette Marx-Neilsen, Lynn Veronneau
Next Wednesday marks the 20th anniversary of the first picture uploaded to the world wide web. That’s not the same as the internet itself, mind you, but it is the tubes with which we find all those cat pictures. I apologize for the very technical explanation.
That first picture was exactly as silly as we were expecting, although we are a bit surprised it wasn’t NSFW. That photoshop disaster you see above is the 1992 album cover for Les Horribles Cernettes, a comedy group at CERN laboratory in Switzerland. The original photograph and ensuing masterful photoshop was done by Silvano de Gennaro, an IT developer at CERN who used the first version of Photoshop on his color Macintosh to make the album cover.
Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the world wide web along with his team in 1991, had made a new edition of WWW which could support photo files. Berners-Lee was a few steps from de Gennaro’s workstation at the time and asked to use the photo to test out the system. He gave the photo to colleague Jean-François Groff, who tells Motherboard, “Sex sells! It’s media. You put a pretty girl in the media, people will notice the media.” It was as true then as it is now.
As cheesy as the photo is, it was groundbreaking. Full disclosure: I was using a text-based version of the internet in 1993. If I had seen that photo on the screen back then, it would have blown my f–king mind. Then I would have asked if they had any naked pictures available. Kids these days have it too easy.
“It’s sort of terrible and charming,” said Lesley Martin, a photo scholar at the Aperture Foundation, after being shown the image for the first time. But she added that that’s par for the course with photographic firsts. The first known photograph, for example, was of a semi-visible rooftop, seen through a window. “They’re always semi-accidental and seemingly inconsequential at the time,” Martin told me. “The first photos are always, from the perspective of a sophisticated viewer today, somewhat non-events and of non-subjects.” [Motherboard]
How dare you imply that work of art is a non-event? Those are the Cernettes! Who could forget their albums like… that first album and, um, that other one… Oh, look, a kitty!
Happy 20th birthday, photos on the web!