Surely you all remember it? I certainly do. The desktop image from Windows XP entitled ‘Bliss’. It didn’t have trees in its composition or the abundant dry stone walls of Yorkshire or any sheep in it but, it did have that open, simple feeling of absolute calm.
On one of my many walking expeditions, this time in Skipton, North Yorkshire, I was shooting with my well-favoured Pentax 50mm macro. I took this photo, with very little thought, but upon reviewing it later I though “that’s a windows desktop image right there’”. This isn’t because I want to sell it, or because I even think that it’s an excellent photograph worthy of being viewed billions of times by the masses. In reality, it simply reminded me of an earlier time, when computing was still largely in its infancy. I remember, not overly fondly, of having to wait for several minutes at a time for our dial up internet to connect, beeping and whining as it hijacked the phone line in an attempt to connect to the World Wide Web. It was in those moments, whilst sat at our Compaq Deskpro, that I would stare absentmindedly at ‘Bliss’.
Out of curiosity, I googled ‘Windows XP desktop image’. Instantly I was met with that infamous green hill, overlooked by a blue, cloudy sky. It turns out that former National Geographic photographer, Charles O’Rear, took ‘Bliss’ on an impulse whilst on his way to visit his girlfriend in 1969. Taken on his medium format Mamiya RZ67 on Fujifilm’s Velvia, he was probably unaware that, right at that moment, he was about to take what would one day be one of the most viewed images of all time. He sent the image to Corbis, a licensing agency founded by Bill Gates. Through a series of reasonably obvious links, the image was eventually licensed by Microsoft and used as the default desktop image for Windows XP in 2000.
Sixteen years later, I stand in a field outside Skipton in North Yorkshire, England and take a photo with the same carefree attitude that Charles O’Rear did fourty-seven years ago. It is a different age, we now live in a digital age. I’m over three-thousand miles away from Los Carneros American Viticultural Area in Sonoma County, California but the idea of ‘bliss’ is still the same. It was a moment of serene beauty and calm but the sentiment is the same.
Until next time,