For no particular reason, I thought I'd post one of the most famous photographs ever taken: Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre's View of the Boulevard du Temple. I could stare at this image for hours.
Just think: This isn't some painting or literary vision. This is an actual image of Paris from 1839 [don't you wish you could see this image colorized?]. Oh, and see those people in the lower left?
These people aren't the creation of a poet or historian, as most people from before the age of mechanical [image] reproduction are to us. These people really stood on that street in Paris 170 years ago.
What's more, when you consider all the other people thronging the city that day, only these two stood still long enough to be captured by Daguerre's long exposure (something between 3 to 15 minutes, I'm told). Everyone else that day, at least in terms of their physical appearance, is lost to history.
In terms of photographic process (or any similar technique of image reproduction), this fellow paying for a shoe-shine and the fellow doing the work are the first people in the world.
And, as if we're time-traveling to 1839, we can see them.
I just think that's intensely cool.
Download much higher resolution version of the image: about.com