Influential Photographs: Bliss, 1996 by Charles O' Rear


In the wake of the news that Microsoft no longer supports the Windows XP operating system, people have started to look back at the serene photograph that became iconic for adorning computer screens around the world. However, perhaps, not many know that this famous photograph was shot on film and not digitally manipulated in any way.

Bliss, 1996 by Charles O'Rear

Show the photo above to anyone in any part of the world who has used a computer in the last decade and they’ll immediately recognize it without batting an eyelash. It has been dubbed as the most viewed photo in the world for the obvious reason that it has adorned computer screens around the world since the release of Windows XP in 2001.

The so-called death of the long-running operating system on April 8th this year spurred people to wax nostalgic on one of its most distinguishable components: the tranquil and vibrantly-colored wallpaper photo aptly called “Bliss.”

“I have a theory that anybody now from age 15 on, for the rest of their life will remember this photograph,” photographer Charles O'Rear says in a video released by Microsoft as a tribute to the famous desktop image.

The photographer holding his iconic image of the now famous verdant hill in Sonoma, California. Photo via

While it has long been thought by many to be a Photoshopped image, O’Rear says it was taken using a Mamiya RZ67 medium format camera and a Fuji film, and not digitally manipulated in any way. The former National Geographic photographer recalls the conditions on a hill in Sonoma, California during that fateful day in 1996 when he took Bliss:

“There’s a time of the year here in north of San Francisco; after we get the rains and during the rains, the grasses turn green and I know the chances of finding these beautiful hillsides are really good. I’m gonna be more prepared. I’m gonna be more alert. I’m going to be more focused and paying attention to what might happen. So, every Friday afternoon, I would go to visit my girlfriend near San Francisco.

On this particular day in January, while driving [on] this winding, little, what I call a country road, there it was! My God, the grass is perfect, it’s green, the sun is out, there’s some clouds! I kind of think that maybe it wasn’t as perfect as I made the photograph. It could have been no clouds; and by the time I parked, by the time I set my camera up, the clouds might have come in, because everything changed so quickly at that point. So now, I get the camera ready and here comes the clouds, and I make a frame, and I crank to the next one — which we don’t do in digital anymore, you just push the button and it takes care of everything. Here comes the clouds, I’ll take another one; and here comes another one, and here’s another one. Now I’ve made four frames; okay, fine, I think that was pretty nice."

Watch the rest of the video below to learn more about the photo from O’Rear himself:

All information for this article were sourced from PetaPixel.

Our intention with the Influential Photographs columns is not to glorify or demean the subject of the photo. Our intention with this column is to highlight the most influential analogue photographs of history. The photographs we feature are considered icons, for their composition, subject matter, or avant-garde artistic value.

written by plasticpopsicle on 2014-04-11 #videos #lifestyle #photography #wallpaper #1996 #bliss #influential-photographs #charles-o-rear #iconic-photographs #windows-xp

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