Autochrome is a color photography process that was patented in 1903. Learn more about this process and view some photos after the jump.
Before the Lumiere brothers invented the autochrome plate, photographs in color were beyond anyone’s reach. They were not the first ones to experiment with color photography but they were able to produce beautiful images. Louis Lumiere experimented with different methods for 4 years before he achieved what he wanted — photographs in color. In 1907, the first color photographic plates became available to the public.
Potato starch was used for this photographic process. The microscopic grains were dyed in green, violet (blue violet) and red (red orange). The starch was then spread on a glass plate and then lampblack was added to the mixture. Pressure was then added to the entire plate and silver bromide was used as an emulsifier. After the process, a glass transparency was produced. The autochrome plating was inserted in the camera. When a photo was taken, the light that entered the lens got filtered by the starch mosaic. The green starch allowed green light to enter, the red starch allowed red light to enter and the violet starch allowed violet light to enter. For the other colors, a mixture of the 3 primary colors would pass through. Because of this new invention, photographers had to adjust their techniques to achieve their artistic vision. Still photos were preferred, since the exposure time took longer.
For several years, autochrome was the pioneer in color photographs until the invention of color film in the 1930’s, when Kodachrome and Agfacolor were made available. The color of autochrome images may not be as true to life as the ones produced with color film but the images are beautiful. Because of the unique process, autochome images usually appear similar to paintings.
Here are more autochrome images from the early 1900’s.