Pre-Instagram, Facebook, DC musician ‘struck a pose’ in first photo ever shared on web

Even though sharing photographs on social media is ubiquitous in 2022, a D.C.-based singer can remember when nobody posted photos, since she was in the first photo ever uploaded on the World Wide Web.

Les Horribles Cernettes
Lynn Veronneau (far right) told WTOP her band was preparing for a show backstage when this photo was taken. It would become the first picture uploaded to The World Wide Web. (Courtesy Silvio de Gennaro)

Lynn Veronneau grew up near Montreal, but in the early 1990s, Veronneau had classical voice training in France and was a member of The Cernettes — a French/Swiss, all-women band, based at the CERN laboratory in Switzerland. CERN is derived from the French acronym for European Council for Nuclear Research.

One evening, they were preparing for a show.

“We were backstage, all dressed up,” Veronneau said. “We just struck a pose.”

Silvano de Gennaro, a computer scientist at CERN, snapped a photograph of the band to use for promotional purposes but realized the image was too cluttered for an album cover.

“It was backstage, so it was just piles of dresses,” Veronneau said. “Photoshop was brand new, so he had to Photoshop the background out.”

A few years earlier, in 1989, British scientist Tim Berners-Lee had invented the World Wide Web, while working at CERN. On July 18, 1992, that scientist uploaded the Cernettes photo to the web — the first time a personal photo was ever posted online.

Berners-Lee created a webpage for the photo, which de Gennaro estimated was probably 120 pixels by 50 pixels and took a minute to upload.

Asked if she recalled if the band chose the particular photo before it was uploaded to the web: “That’s a good question, I don’t remember seeing it in print. I looked at the photo on the website for the band, which was the very first band website in the world.”

The internet, which at the time was spelled with a capital I, existed before the web.

“At that point, there were other images on the net, but they were all scientific. They were data-driven, or it was about a scientist,” Veronneau said.

“At some point, you realize, ‘Wait, this can be used with images for general communication, for art, for entertainment.’ So, it hadn’t occurred, until it did.”

Now, she and her husband, Ken Avis, use social media to promote their acoustic, multilingual, world-jazz band, Veronneau.

As for why photo sharing has become so popular? “It’s cliché, but it is worth a thousand words.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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