Was this the 1st photo on the web? 25 years on, Quebec woman tells how she came to be in it

Les Horribles Cernettes, a parody band that sings doo-wop songs about high-energy physics, had no idea the photo they posed for before playing a gig 25 years ago would become what may be the first personal photograph to be uploaded to the World Wide Web.

Lynn Véronneau is 1 of 4 women in the personal photograph, published on the internet in 1992

Les Horribles Cernettes — (from left to right) Angela Higney, Michele de Gennaro, Colette Marx-Neilsen and Lynn Véronneau — are celebrating the 25-year anniversary of this image, the first personal photograph to be uploaded to the internet. (Les Horribles Cernettes/Facebook)

It was July 18, 1992, and the Les Horribles Cernettes were about to perform their doo-wop songs about high-energy physics on a stage in Switzerland, when their manager decided to snap a spontaneous picture.

The four women were playing as part of the Hardronic Festival, an annual event put on at their workplace, the European Organization for Nuclear Research — better known as CERN.

"We were just getting ready to go on stage and [he] said, 'OK, ladies, strike a pose!'" said Lynn Véronneau, who's originally from Sherbrooke, Que., but was working as a research administrator for Yale University at the centre at the time.

They had no idea the still would become what many say is the first personal photograph to be uploaded to the World Wide Web and that, by its inventor himself, Tim Berners-Lee, she said.

The group, made up of Angela Higney, Michele de Gennaro, Colette Marx-Neilsen and Véronneau, decided to get together again this week to commemorate the photo's 25th anniversary.

They're giving what they say will be their last concert ever Saturday night in Geneva. 

Puffy hair and high-energy physics

Les Horribles Cernettes was named after the centre's acronym (CERN) and its own acronym plays on the centre's Large Hadron Collider, the world's most powerful particle accelerator.

A parody band, they sang lyrics like, "I fill your mail file with lovely phrases, the all come back invalid user, you never let me into your computer," dressed in 1950s and 1960s fashion, hair and all. 

"That was the whole idea of the band, to be a little nostalgic.... It was light-hearted," Véronneau told CBC News Saturday from a hair salon in Geneva, where the band was getting ready for their last show. They even played at Expo 92 in Seville, Spain.

"It was a lot of fun — and now also a part of history." 

After they'd posed that fateful day, Silvano de Gennaro said in an interview with Motherboard, he was editing the image for the group's album cover when Berners-Lee asked if he could use it to test a new feature on the World Wide Web, launched in 1989 from CERN.

The inventor had gotten wind of the band, which had grown in popularity among high-energy physics and humour lovers alike, thanks to CERN's festival. 

"I'm not sure if he was a fan. I'd like to think so," Véronneau said.

Reunited one last time

She says she came upon the Cernettes playing one day at the centre and thought to herself, "Wow, I really want to be part of that band."

Soon, Véronneau, who was also studying Italian opera at the time, auditioned and became a Cernette, too. 

Since then, she has become an accomplished jazz singer in Washington, D.C., where she and her current band are based. 

The four women all live in different countries — from Mauritius, to the South of France, Scotland and the States — so "it was a pretty big an endeavour to get us all here," she said.
The last time Les Horribles Cernettes performed together was in 2012, when they celebrated the photograph's 20th anniversary. (Les Horribles Cernettes/Facebook)

The last time the Cernettes played together was in 2012 for the photo's 20th anniversary, also in Geneva. 

They all went on to be musicians and have stayed in touch on Facebook despite the distance.

Véronneau said they arrived in Switzerland at the beginning of the week and have been rehearsing every day since. 

"We wish we could perform all week because we've been rehearsing for just one hour and it's the last time," Véronneau said before returning to her salon chair. "I'm really excited."

"Looking good ladies," she said. "Is it my turn?"

With files from Radio-Canada