Click on photos to enlarge.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Color Photography

Today we take color for granted in every media we encounter.  However, when you're among the older generation of artists, you can, no doubt, remember when your held in your hands the first color photo you ever saw.  You can easily remember the first time you ever glimpsed color TV.  You might even recall the first time you saw a color picture in a newspaper.  Now, when advertisers in slick magazines want to attract attention, they juxtapose a black and white photo among the rainbow of ultra-colorful come-ons.

When the first photographic processes began to appear around 1840, painters still held one important "ace in the hole" when it came to reproducing reality on a two-dimensional surface--COLOR. That is, until 1907. Just over a hundred years ago, Louis Lumiere, who had also pioneered motion pictures a decade earlier, developed what he called the Autochrome process. The invention involved the coating of glass plates with three layers of dyed potato starch which served as color filters. A layer of silver bromide emulsion covered the starch. When developed, the process yielded a positive color transparency much akin to the paintings of the Post-Impressionist George Seurat, done some twenty years before.
A WW I era Autochrome
Process photo

Well, so much for the painters' monopoly on color! Unbelievably, given the almost continuous development of photography in the last 150 years, the Autochrome process was not replaced until Kodak began to produce color film some 25 years later using basically the same principles but with more advanced chemistry they dubbed Kodachrome.  Kodak still makes cameras, but virtually none of them still use Kodachrome...or any other film, for that matter.  Now we recall with nostalgic fondness the first time we ever took a digital photo.

No comments:

Post a Comment