The Most Viewed Image Ever


Photograph by: Charles O’Rear Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Reports suggest that till date over a billion people from all over the world have seen this image. It is the default desktop wallpaper for the Windows XP computer operating system. And yet, never for a moment did the former National Geographic photographer, Charles O’Rear think that this would become one of the most recognised photos on the planet. Titled Bliss, the image looks so serene and perfect, that most people assume it is a digital painting. However, it is indeed a photograph with no manipulation at all.

Now 69, O’Rear was driving down the road in 1996 to his girlfriend’s house from Napa, California when he made this image. Struck by the greens of the grass, the white clouds and the perfectly blue California sky, he pulled over and immediately took out his camera. He said,“I drove the same route between Napa and San Francisco a couple of times a week earlier, but this was January, when the grass is the most brilliant green, so I jumped out and took a couple of shots and then carried on my way.” However, all he wanted to do was document the wine-making process in the Napa Valley.

Simon Goldin and Jakob Senneby Shot the Same View a Decade Later. Goldin and Senneby located the exact spot from where O’Rear made Bliss and rephotographed it. The view looks disappointingly dreary now. Photograph/Simon Goldin

Charles O’Rear was not very hopeful about the image after he made it. He thought it was just another ordinary shot. But after a few days, he was informed by his photo agency, Corbis, that Microsoft had chosen this image to be the default desktop screen of the then new Windows XP system. The amount Microsoft paid for the image is still unknown but it was the second-costliest image till that date. Since then, several photographers have attempted to recreate the image at multiple locations across the world.

This article originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of Better Photography.