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As far as I know, the Mountain + Sky or Mountain + Sun Iconography is used almost ubiquitously to represent an image file across Windows and Web browsers.

Whether it be a:

A png file

enter image description here

An unloaded image:

enter image description here

Or even, I think, denoting a location where images can be dropped, in order to uploaded:

enter image description here

It even appears on SE directly above the Styling/Headers tab.

enter image description here

So where exactly did this iconography originate?

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  • this website (while it's advertising for an icon system) gives a rather nicely done history of the use of icons in computer interfaces: historyoficons.com
    – dom
    Sep 30 '20 at 14:33
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This is a guess off the top of my head, since I don't know for sure. It probably has its origins in old film camera dials, specifically the "landscape" mode in fully automated/computerized cameras of the early 1990s.

I have an old Canon EOS 500 35mm SLR (from 1993) with a Landscape icon on the Mode dial. It doesn't look exactly identical, it has a cloud instead of the sun, but still the two distinct mountain peaks.

Here you can see it between the portrait (head), and macro mode (flower) symbols.

enter image description here

I don't know whether Canon, Nikon or even Fujifilm were the first to use this but I'd happily put a bet on it being a Japanese camera manufacturer.

If somebody has an earlier example, this could easily disprove my theory. I also tried searching early Apple MacOS classic icons, since Apple practically invented the graphical user interface, but couldn't find anything that looks like this at all.

For historical context it's also interesting to note that the first ever version of Photoshop was not released until 1990, and the world wide web did not go public until 1991, and the world’s first commercially produced digital camera you could actually buy was the FUJIX DS-X. Apparently the RRP was $20,000 at the time!!

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  • 2
    The Japanese theory is a pretty good one. Especially when you look at Mt. Fuji, there is the big mountain, and a smaller one next to it, although I couldn't find a good photo from that perspective, you can see it here: nickkembel.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/…
    – Alith7
    Sep 30 '20 at 17:30
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I would guess that it comes from the desktop wallpaper called Bliss that shipped as default with Windows XP. I can't remember seeing it as the photo icon before then, but I could be wrong.

enter image description here

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  • 3
    I can't remember if this was the view outside my window or if I just spend too many hours in front of the screen ...
    – Wolff
    Sep 30 '20 at 16:09
  • probably the later
    – Alith7
    Sep 30 '20 at 17:25

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