Charles O'Rear

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Chuck O'Rear
Charles O'Rear.jpg
O'Rear in 2007
Born Charles O'Rear
1941 (age 76–77)
Butler, Missouri, USA
Residence St. Helena, California, USA
Nationality American
Occupation Photographer
Notable work Bliss
Spouse(s) Daphne Larkin

Charles "Chuck" O'Rear (born 1941) is an American photographer. His image, Bliss, gained fame for being the default desktop wallpaper of Windows XP. O'Rear started his career with the daily newspapers Emporia Gazette, The Kansas City Star, and Los Angeles Times, worked for National Geographic magazine, and was part of the Environmental Protection Agency's DOCUMERICA project. He began photographing winemaking in 1978. Since 1998 O'Rear has been associated with Corbis, a Seattle based stock photography company owned by co-founder and chairman of Microsoft, Bill Gates.

Early life and career[edit]

O'Rear was born in Butler, Missouri in 1941 and first handled the camera Brownie Box when he was 10. As a child, he desired to be a pilot and got his license at the age of 16. He attended State Teachers College and started his career as a sports reporter for the Butler Daily Democrat.[1] In 1961, he joined the daily newspaper Emporia Gazette as a photographer, and in 1962 The Kansas City Star as a reporter-photographer and, in 1966, he moved to Los Angeles to join as a staff photographer for the Los Angeles Times.[2]

In 1971, National Geographic magazine hired O'Rear to document the lives of Russian villagers in Alaska who called themselves "Old Believers." In 1978, the magazine sent him to Napa Valley to photograph the wine region. Since then, O'Rear became interested in wine photography and shifted his base to the valley to photograph the region. In 1985, he traveled to Indonesia for another assignment for the magazine where he carried 500 rolls of film and took 15,000 photos.[1] O'Rear has appeared on National Geographic magazine's cover twice: once as "Bird Man" flying an ultralight aircraft and later for the other photograph shown him holding a computer chip in his hand.[3] O'Rear had been associated with the magazine for nearly 25 years (1971–1995) and has photographed in 30 countries and every state in USA.[1] For the magazine, he photographed 25 articles ranging various topics including the Mexican Riviera, Siberia, Canada, Silicon Valley and Napa Valley.[2] While working with the National Geographic, O'Rear mastered the use of small strobes and taught the subject for 11 years at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshop.[3]

From 1972 to 1975, O'Rear was part of the Environmental Protection Agency's DOCUMERICA project which aimed at "photographically documenting the subjects of environmental concern in America during the 1970s" along with 70 other photographers including Bill Strode, Danny Lyon and John H. White.[4][5] O'Rear is credited with the most photographs in the final DOCUMERICA collection.[6] In 1980, he co-founded the photo agency, "Westlight", with Craig Aurness, which was acquired in 1998 by Corbis.[3] In 1998, Corbis sent O'Rear around the world for a year to photograph major wine regions.[3]


Photographers like to become famous for pictures they created, I didn't 'create' this. I just happened to be there at the right moment and documented it.[1] I had no idea when I took the photograph that anything like that could happen. It is probably the most recognized photo on the planet.[7]

— O'Rear on making Bliss

In January 1996, O'Rear was driving through Napa and Sonoma counties in California and photographed a green, lush hillside on the side of the highway 12/121.[1] O'Rear took the photograph with a hand-held medium-format Mamiya RZ67 camera. He submitted the photo to Westlight, which later merged with Corbis.

Microsoft picked O'Rear's image for its new operating system Windows XP in 2001.[8] Microsoft named the image Bliss and used it as the default wallpaper for the default theme of its Windows XP operating system published in 2001.[9] With the success of Windows XP and the photograph being part of the operating system, it became one of the most viewed images in history.[7][8][10][11] Microsoft chose the image because "it illustrates the experiences Microsoft strives to provide customers (freedom, possibility, calmness, warmth, etc.)."[12] O'Rear was later reported to have said in an interview that he didn't expect the shot would become the "most viewed image on the planet".[7]

On the Dutch edition of the operating system, the name of the image is Ireland, as that was mistakenly believed to be the location of the image.[11] Before the real location of photograph was revealed, various locations had been speculated including France, England, Switzerland, the North Otago region of New Zealand, southeastern Washington, South West Kerry in Ireland or even the south of Tübingen, Germany.[13] The image was alleged to have been digitally manipulated to enhance its effects or even to have been a computer-generated scene, assembled using Adobe Photoshop from a number of different images. Although O'Rear denied the claim and reported that it was submitted to Corbis without making any change to it,[1] Microsoft in fact cropped the image on the left side of the frame and altered the color of the hillside to a more vivid green.[8] The image also became part of Microsoft's $200 million advertising campaign to promote their software, Yes You Can and has been subject to many parodies.[8]


In 1985 he photographed and sold to Weldon Publishing of Australia the book "Silicon Valley HIGH TECH: Window to the Future." O'Rear has written, produced and photographed 10 books about wine and wine regions since 1989.[2] He has also been working as a publisher of books, calendars, posters since 2001.[14]

  1. Napa Valley (1989)
  2. Fodor's Wine Country (1995)
  3. Cabernet: A Photographic Journey from Vine to Wine (1998) co-authored with Michael Creedman, Foreword by Robert Mondavi
  4. Chardonnay: Photographs from Around the World (1999) co-authored with Michael Creedman
  5. Napa Valley: The Land, The Wine, The People (2001)
  6. Beautiful Wineries (2005) co-authored with Thom Elkjer
  7. Wine Places: The Land, the Wine, the People (2005) co-authored with David Furer
  8. Wine Across America: A Photographic Road Trip (2007) co-authored with Daphne Larkin
  9. Beringer's Rhine House (2009) co-authored with Daphne Larkin
  10. Napa Valley: The Land, The Wine, The People (2011)


  1. ^ a b c d e f Younger, Carolyn (January 18, 2010). "Windows XP desktop screen is a Napa image". Napa Valley Register. Retrieved May 10, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c "Biography, Charles O'Rear". Retrieved May 10, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Member Information: Charles O'Rear". Retrieved May 11, 2013. 
  4. ^ "The George Washington Bridge in Heavy Smog, View Toward the New Jersey Side of the Hudson River". World Digital Library. Retrieved February 10, 2013. 
  5. ^ "DOCUMERICA: The Environmental Protection Agency's Program to Photographically Document Subjects of Environmental Concern, 1972-1977". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved February 10, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Documerica in Focus: Charles "Chuck" O'Rear". United States Environmental Protection Agency. Archived from the original on May 10, 2013. Retrieved May 11, 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c Gardner, David (November 12, 2011). "Scene grab: How a sun-kissed California view became the most recognisable vista on the planet". Daily Mail. Retrieved May 12, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c d Clark, David. "Bliss by Charles O'Rear: Iconic Photograph". Amateur Photographer. Retrieved May 12, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Microsoft behind world's most viewed photograph". The Times of India. July 18, 2012. Retrieved May 12, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Charles O'Rear's 'Bliss' one of the most viewed photo of all time". Yahoo! News. July 18, 2012. Retrieved May 12, 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Messieh, Nancy (August 28, 2011). "Ever wonder where the Windows XP default wallpaper came from?". The Next Web. Retrieved May 12, 2013. 
  12. ^ Turner, Paul (22 February 2004). "No view of Palouse from Windows". The Spokesman-Review. Spokane. Archived from the original on 16 November 2009. Retrieved 19 September 2012. 
  13. ^ "Das bekannteste Foto der Welt". January 11, 2011. Retrieved September 27, 2013. 
  14. ^ "LinkedIn profile: Charles O'Rear". LinkedIn. Retrieved May 11, 2013. 

External links[edit]