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The story behind the famous ‘Bliss’ photograph from Windows XP



THIS week, Microsoft wanted to subtly remind everyone how great and mighty it used to be.


Have you ever stopped to wonder where the image was taken, or who took it? In fact, the image is so crisp you might have assumed it wasn’t real at all.

The man behind the camera  is American photographer Charles O’Rear. Don’t let his name fool you into thinking that the photo was in fact taken in Ireland. Bliss, as it turns out, is in California. In Sonoma County to be exact.

The photo was taken in 1996, years before Windows XP launched, and before the area was converted into a vineyard. In fact, a photo taken 10 years later from exactly the same spot where Bliss was shot, shows a disappointingly, dreary view:

Here is that same seen, taken in 2006

bliss 2


The image has since made its way off of users’ computer and can be spotted in some of the most unexpected places. O’Rear himself has seen the image in the window of a restaurant in a Thai village and in the background of a TV interview with the Venezuelan president.

So how much did O’Rear get for taking what is considered one of the most famous photos of all time? A non-disclosure agreement prevents him from revealing the actual figure, but according to Napa Valley Register, O’Rear stated that it was:

“extraordinary” and second only to that paid to another living, working photographer for the photo of then-President Bill Clinton hugging Monica Lewinsky.

Taken with a medium format camera, the most surprising fact about the image is that O’Rear claims that it wasn’t digitally manipulated.

Either way, the present day reality is a far cry from the idyllic image that Windows abandoned with the advent of Windows Vista.

JW Van Wessel found the exact coordinates of the location, and thanks to Google Street View, you can get a 360 degree view of the area, and see exactly how it looks today:

Behind where O’Rear stood, you can see more vineyards:blissss1


While to the left and right is little else but endless highways:


To give it a try yourself, just go to Google Maps and enter the following coordinates: 38.248966, -122.410269.