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Color Photography Is 150 Years Old

In the year 2011, we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the first color snapshot of history. Want to know who did, what and where it was portrayed?

James Clerk Maxwell was a Scottish physicist who showed the result of the first color photograph in one of his classes at King’s College London. Thus the May 17, 1861, during a class on color theory, Maxwell showed a color picture made by his assistant Thomas Sutton.

James Clerk Maxwell

The technique used was none other than transparencies overlay 3 of 3 images taken in black and white. Each of these images they had applied a different color filter (red, green or blue). The result as we all know, a color image of the photographed object (in this first occasion was a piece of scottish cloth (plaid).

The image that showed James Clerk Maxwell.

This technique may seem archaic, but keep in mind that until very recently (80´s) this was the way used to send color images from anywhere in the world by cable. The system is based on Maxwell’s technique of separating the colors magenta, cyan and yellow. Each image was sent by the agencies in three black and white images. Each of them had to be subsequently applying a color filter to finally unite in perfect alignment.

Another pioneer of color was the Russian Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky. In the early twentieth century, the czar ordered to depart to photograph the land, people and culture of the empire. Sergei made a color photo to the Emir of Bukhara. Along with the image attached three black and white copies that subsequently used to apply color filters and overlapping them. This image of the Emir has 100 years, but as the colors do not appear. There are about two thousand negatives of this technique, made by Prokudin-Gorsky.
Both Maxwell and Sergei, we owe color photography today.

written by jesushp and translated by jesushp

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The original version of this article is written in: Spanish.