photo of Barbara

In recent years, I have started doing work in image analysis and have used the Barbara and Lena images. Early on, I became aware of the interesting history surrounding the Lena image and that got me wondering:

  1. Who is Barbara?

  2. Where was the photograph shot?

  3. What was the original intent of the photographer? Presumably, the photograph wasn't taken for image research.

Many people cite Allen Gersho's lab or Marco Schmidt's (now defunct) test image database. However, this is a bit unsatisfying to me.

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    $\begingroup$ This question appears to be off-topic because it is about the history of a photograph. $\endgroup$
    – Deve
    Oct 23, 2014 at 12:22
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    $\begingroup$ This picture is so common, that I don't feel the question is off-topic. Tracing its history could be interesting, as for the motivation of the choice. Indeed, I never saw it in color, and never thought it could have been colored $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2016 at 13:37
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    $\begingroup$ youtu.be/JsnXb5fsrxU $\endgroup$ May 8, 2023 at 19:06

1 Answer 1


The appeal of this image is obviously in the numerous lines, which test the aliasing properties of resizing, denoising, and super-resolution algorithms.

It seems Allen Gersho is the source, according to the Acknowledgement section of Shapiro's Embedded image coding using zerotrees of wavelet coefficients [PDF] (1993).


The author would like to thank Joel Zdepski who suggested incorporating the sign of the significant values into the significance map to aid embedding, Rajesh Hingorani who wrote much of the original C code for the QMF-pyramids, Allen Gersho who provided the original "Barbara" image, and Gregory Wornell whose fruitful discussions convinced me to develop a more mathematical analysis of zerotrees in terms of bounding an optimal estimator. I would also like to thank the editor and the anonymous reviewers whose comments led to a greatly improved manuscript.

If you want more specific information you could ask him or one of his students from the early 90s, when this image first seems to have appeared.

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    $\begingroup$ I do hope the OP has tried finding out. $\endgroup$
    – Julia
    Sep 6, 2017 at 16:06
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    $\begingroup$ So, I'm picking up the torch on this and trying to track down this info. Allen is retired sadly, and his contact info is no longer on UCSB's website. I've reached out to department for his contact info in addition to reaching out to Jerry M. Shapiro who wrote the paper that the paragraph above is taken from. Wish me luck! $\endgroup$
    – hubble
    Feb 8, 2023 at 16:03

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