Oldest Surviving Photographs of 20 Cities Reveal How the World Has Transformed in 150 Years

Oldest Surviving Photographs of 20 Cities Reveal How the World Has Transformed in 150 Years

The history of photography dates back to even before the 11th century and Ibn al-Haytham’s book of optics. It, possibly, goes far back to the fourth and fifth centuries Before Common Era, when famous Greek Mathematicians Euclid and Aristotle described the concept of a pinhole camera. But ever since the 11th century and discoveries in the field of optics have been succeeding one after the other, until photography was actually invented by French inventor Nicéphore Niépce. The oldest surviving photograph, to this day, was taken by Niépce in 1827, and the oldest photograph showing a person was taken by French artist Louis Daguerre in 1838.

Now, photography is quite mainstream; however, those who choose to take it as a profession need to learn more about focus, aberration, resolution, and many other technicalities. They, also, need to have the sense of it. Talented photographers know how to capture the essence of a moment and a place in one single image. Photography, now, has got many genres, as well, in which photographers can specialize. These include portrait photography, food photography, fashion photography, architecture photography, and landscape photography, among many others.

You have most definitely been awed numerous times before by photographs which reveal tremendous landscapes and cityscapes from all over the world. Those photos are probably the main inspiration for your travel bucket list. They are masterfully taken by talented and professional photographers who know how to highlight the magic and the spirit of a place. They, also, know how to use the available editing tools and technologies to get the best outcome. Have you wondered though what landscape photography was like before any of this? Here is a collection of the oldest surviving images of cities from all over the globe. Before colors and Photoshop, this is what it was like.


Taken by Louis Daguerre in 1839; it is the first photograph that shows a person in it – Image via mymodernmet.com


The image was taken in 1839 for Trafalgar Square in London. – Image via mymodernmet.com


Taken in 1848, showing St. George’s Church in the background. – Image via mymodernmet.com


Taken in 1845; the image shows the beginnings of the urban sprawl in Athens and the Acropolis – Image via mymodernmet.com


Taken in 1842 from a 125-foot-high point on Trajan’s column; the image features the Colosseum and its surroundings. – Image via mymodernmet.com


Taken by French photographer Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey in 1844 – Courtesy of Smithsonian Institute – Image via mymodernmet.com


Taken in 1840 for the Leipziger Strasse thoroughfare; it shows the spire of St. Mary’s Church in the background. – Image via mymodernmet.com


Taken in 1840 for Gråbrødretorv public square, named then Ulfeldts Plads – Image via mymodernmet.com


Taken in 1848, revealing the former assembly hall and Tolbooth Church. – Image via mymodernmet.com


Panormaic Image taken in 1866 by Italian-British photographer Felice Beato for the city of Edo, now Tokyo. – Image via mymodernmet.com


Image via mymodernmet.com

Taken in 1850 when India was still under the rule of British East India Company


Taken in 1844 by French customs service officer Alphonse-Eugene-Jules Itier from a vantage point on Fort Canning. – Image via mymodernmet.com


Taken in 1855 by photographer Robert Hunt; the image features St. James Parsonage on Macquarie St. – Image via mymodernmet.com

New York

Taken in 1848 for Manhattan’s Upper west side and what is known now as Broadway road. – Image via mymodernmet.com

Los Angeles

The earliest image of Downtown Los Angeles, taken in 1860. – Image via mymodernmet.com


World’s first aerial photo, taken from a hot air balloon by James Wallace Black in 1860 – Image via mymodernmet.com

Washington DC

The image was taken in 1846 for the old patent office; a building that now houses the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian Museum of American Art. – Image via mymodernmet.com


Taken in 1855, the image revels the Cook County Court House and City Hall. It was destroyed in the Chicago fire in 1871. – Image via mymodernmet.com


The image was taken in 1856 for King Street East to promote the city’s bid to be the Canadian capital city. – Image via mymodernmet.com

San Francisco

Taken in 1850, the image shows deserted ships in the bay. The city’s dirt roads were paved using wood from these ships. This wood helped in the fast-spreading of the San Francisco Fire in 1851, destroying a quarter of the city. – Image via mymodernmet.com

Send this to a friend