July 18, 2012 will mark the 20th anniversary of the very first picture ever uploaded to the web. Few people are aware of the photo or its significance largely in part to its nature. If you aren’t already familiar with it, you’d likely imagine it would be of something technological or profound in nature, but you’d be dead wrong.
The first photograph ever uploaded to the web and clicked on with a browser is of a poorly Photoshopped image depicting members of the comedy band Les Horribles Cernettes. The full story of how this came to be has never been told before and as you can imagine, is a bit on the strange side.
Silvano de Cennaro was backstage at the Hardronic Music Festival on July 18, 1992. He was working for CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) at the time, managing the comedy band and writing their songs on the side.
The group, consisting of administrative assistants and significant others of scientists, was preparing to go on stage to perform. That’s when de Gennaro asked the four ladies to pose for a photo to use as the upcoming CD cover. He snapped the picture with his Canon EOS 650, not knowing that this image would one day be famous.
The photographer worked near Tim Berners-Lee, one of the inventors responsible for creating the web. Original band member Michele was dating de Gennaro, and the two became friends with Berners-Lee through an amateur operatic society.
A short time later, Berners-Lee and his research team had released a new version of the web that supported photo files. He asked de Gennaro for a Cernettes-related image to upload. Michele told Motherboard that Berners-Lee was into crossdressing, perhaps a clue as to why he wanted an image of attractive ladies in dresses.
De Gennaro obliged, handing over a scanned .gif of the image he wanted to use for their CD cover, edited with version one of Photoshop on his color Macintosh. The rest, as they say, is history.
Coincidentally, the band is scheduled to play their final concert this coming Saturday. It’s unclear if members of the group will mention the photo during the event.