How “Jennifer in Paradise” became the first-ever color photograph to be “photoshopped”

by Felix Esser

posted Monday, June 16, 2014 at 10:48 AM EST

Back in 1987, John Knoll and his then-girlfriend and later wife Jennifer were working together at Industrial Light and Magic. After working 70-hour weeks on "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", the two went on a well-deserved vacation to the pacific Island of Bora Bora. Little could John have anticipated that a picture he took of Jennifer sitting on one of the island's beautiful beaches would later be part of one of the biggest revolutions photography ever saw.

At the same time, John's brother Thomas was a student at the University of Michigan, where he was working on image viewing software for his Macintosh Plus computer. While at ILM, John had gotten to know the Pixar Image Computer, one of the first commercial solutions for digital image manipulation. Since it was very expensive and required great skill to operate, John convinced Thomas to turn his program into a full-fledged image editing solution -- Photoshop was born.

"Jennifer in Paradise" by John Knoll

In order to make the software attractive to potential buyers, the two had to demonstrate what it was capable of with an actual photograph. During a visit to Apple's Advanced Technology Group lab, John happened to carry his photograph of Jennifer from Bora Bora with him, and decided to scan it with a flatbed scanner. John then used it do demonstrate Photoshop's powerful tools. The picture titled "Jennifer in Paradise" thus became the first-ever color photograph to be "photoshopped."

John would use this picture many times over during demonstrations of Photoshop, and it was even shipped with copies of the software so users had a sample image to start working and experimenting on. In a sense, "Jennifer in Paradise" is to Photoshop what the famous "Bliss" desktop background is to Windows XP. In the video below, John Knoll recreates one of the first Photoshop demonstrations and shows the kinds of edits he would do to "Jennifer in Paradise" with early Photoshop versions.

(via SLR Lounge, The Guardian)