The creator of what’s often dubbed the ‘world’s most viewed photograph’ has shared the remarkable journey of how his casual snapshot eventually found its way to a globally recognized buyer. Without a doubt, many have glimpsed the iconic photo taken by 81-year-old Chuck O’Rear during a regular drive in California in 1996.
O’Rear’s fortuitous moment of capturing the image was purely serendipitous. At the time, he considered it just another addition to his portfolio. Interestingly, this now-iconic photograph, named “Bliss,” was taken during a brief halt on his trip to see his then soon-to-be-wife Daphne Larkin in Marin County, California, adding a lovely personal touch to its history.
For Windows users, the image is unmistakably familiar. Yes, this casual photo by O’Rear eventually caught the eye of Microsoft. After Bill Gates’ Corbis group acquired Westlight stock photo agency in 1998, the image achieved iconic status as the default background for Windows XP.
Many recall seeing it every day while waiting for applications like MSN Messenger to boot up. Contrary to some beliefs, the image isn’t digitally manufactured or even enhanced with Photoshop.
Given that it was Microsoft purchasing the photo, it’s no surprise O’Rear received generous compensation. Although the precise amount remains undisclosed, it’s understood that “Bliss” was procured for an impressive sum exceeding $100,000.
But there were some logistical challenges. Due to the significant payment involved, FedEx hesitated to handle it owing to high insurance costs. Thus, O’Rear personally flew to deliver the original photo to Microsoft’s headquarters in Seattle.
Interestingly, while O’Rear’s payout was substantial, another photographer, Peter Burin, was compensated a mere $45 for his “Autumn” wallpaper used by Microsoft. The disparity in their rewards would surely have been a bit disheartening for Burin.
Regardless, even with O’Rear’s illustrious two-decade career with National Geographic, “Bliss” undeniably stands out as the pinnacle of his photographic legacy, a testament to its enduring appeal.