|Contents||This theme includes example sections and will be revised and added to as we proceed. Suggestions for additions, improvements and the correction of factual errors are always appreciated.|
710.01 Process and product > Improving content on photographic techniques
|We are seeking to expand the themes covering photographic techniques and processes. These sections will include:
Conservation will not initially be included but may be in the future if required.
- Invention of the process
- Any related patents
- Trade literature
- Contemporary advertisements and announcements of the innovation
- A description of the process and its variants
- Historical examples and details of where examples can be located in public collections
- Contemporary examples by photographers using the exact process.
710.02 Process and product > Autochromes: Introduction
The Autochrome is a color photograph on a glass plate. Patented in 1903 and commercialized in 1907, it was the first practical color process available to both professional and amateur photographers.
John Wood starts the preface of his wonderful book reference|643|Art of the Autochrome: Birth of Color Photography with these words: "Autochrome is the rarest, the most fragile, and, to a great many eyes, the most beautiful of photographic processes. It represents not just the birth of color photography but color as luminous as the camera ever caught it."
Autochrome spanned 25 years in the history of photography, before being superseded by newer technologies such as Kodachrome and its fragility and the difficulties to display an Autochrome could explain why the process has not always received the attention it deserved: Digital technologies allow us to access collections by scanning the Autochrome plates and to display them without further manipulation and this provides the Autochrome with a chance of being rediscovered.
This exhibition does not intend to cover in depth all the different aspects of Autochrome photography but will attempt to explore selected subjects such as: history of the process, its technique, artistic expression, travel and documentary, war in color, the Autochrome in print, operators etc.
We would like to consider this exhibition as an interactive project in constant evolution where images and information can be added by anyone anytime. Hopefully, with time, this exhibition will do justice to the Autochrome by reaching a new audience who will discover this wonderful process that has never been equaled in beauty by all the subsequent color processes.
Nadia Valla, 2006
710.03 Process and product > Autochromes: Invention
Born in Besançon, in Eastern France, Auguste (1862-1954) and Louis Lumière (1864-1948) moved to Lyon in 1871, where their father Antoine Lumière had opened a photographic studio in the downtown area. They studied physics and chemistry at La Martinière, a famous technical school of Lyon.
Taking a keen interest in photography from the beginning, Louis developed at the age of 17 a dry-plate gelatin silver bromide emulsion. The family business initially hand produced dry plates, sold in the paternal studio of photography, but soon demand outpaced the manual capabilities.
The Lumière Company was thus incorporated in 1883 at Monplaisir, a suburb of Lyon, to manufacture and market these plates. It would become one of the largest European firms of photographic products. The two brothers were able consequently to conduct research in very diverse fields, co-signing number of publications and patents.
The role of Auguste Lumière in the development of the most outstanding inventions (Cinematograph, Autochrome plate) was marginal and he devoted thereafter most of its work to chemistry and medical research.
After the invention of the Cinematograph in 1895, Louis Lumière carried out his research on color photography with a trichromatic process, which will eventually lead to the Autochrome plate, patented at the end of 1903 and presented to the Academy of Sciences on May 30, 1904. Afterwards, Louis Lumière focused his energy on developing the industrial processes for the production of plates. A new plant was built in 1905 exclusively for this production and after several years the marketing of the product was launched in 1907.
It was a commercial success and the Autochrome plate remained without real competition for about thirty years. Thousands of photographs were taken all over the world with this process considered by Louis Lumière as his masterpiece.
When testing his first manually produced colors plates, Louis Lumière used his family circle as one of the first subjects for the Autochrome. After the launch of the plates, the Lumière brothers would simply and naturally take many photographs of the family in colors, during privileged moments such as holidays and everyday life, and to shoot portraits. The few plates presented hereafter are a testimonial of this family practice in the first decade of the autochromy. The last two portraits presented are two Autochrome portraits of the brothers, taken just about the time when the Autochrome glass plate was replaced by the Autochrome on flexible support.
Jean-Marc Lamotte / Institut Lumière (the Lumiere Institute), Lyon – France
710.04 Process and product > Autochromes: Technique
The Autochrome plate of the Lumière Brothers is a direct positive, on a glass plate, of variable size; there is no negative so they are unique non reproducible (in a direct manner) photographs, precursors of color slides:
Louis Lumière had already invented instant photographic plates and the Cinematograph when, in late 1903, he and his brother Auguste patented a new process for producing color photographs: the Autochrome.
Exposure (which may vary from several seconds to several minutes according to the intensity of the light, the luminosity of the subject and when it was made) is taken with the filter side of the plate turned towards the lens. A yellow-orange filter is placed on the front of the camera lens; its role is to compensate for the excess activity of violets and blue radiations.
"Before the invention of the Autochrome, colors were separated using a complex three-color process whereby three successive exposures had to be taken and then superimposed onto each other. Louis Lumière, however, devised a method of filtering light by using a single three-color screen made up of millions of grains of potato starch dyed in three different colors. This mixture was then laid out on a varnished glass plate, which would be ready for use once it was coated in a black and white emulsion. Developing the plate entailed applying the same process as was used for black and white photographs at the time, with the impression being processed to reversal.
As with pointillist painting, the color effect is rendered by viewing the image in its entirety, since the colors are created from the juxtaposition of the multitude of dots; indeed, the essential charm of these photographs derives from that very juxtaposition.
Finally, in 1907, after years of work, the Autochrome was launched onto the market and met with immediate and long-lasting success - it was to be another thirty years before anything else came along to compete with it, and that was when chemical color processes were devised to do on film what this delicate transparency process did on glass."
(Definition of the Autochrome by the Lumière Institute in Lyon-France)
The Autochrome plates were intended to be projected with a lantern lit by an arc lamp which gave a powerful light and allowed considerable enlarging on giant screens; or they could be individually admired using a clever system: the diascope, a leather or fabric case provided with a frame and a mirror. The frame maintains the Autochrome plate on a tilted level. When this one is placed under a source of light, it is reflected on the mirror inside the case. For an optimal vision, the mirror is protected from the ambient light by two side bellows. In order to protect the fragile emulsion of the Autochrome plate, a protective glass was placed on top of the original glass plate, secured by a special "binding tape" that ensured the sealing of emulsion and its protection from the moisture and the air pollution.
Eventually, the grain pattern of the Autochrome was applied to films (cellulose nitrate) which allowed for greater sensitivity allowing instantaneous color photography. The first method of sheet film produced by Lumière was called Filmcolor in 1932. In 1934 a color roll film called Lumicolor was also availaible.
The Autochrome was destined to be abandoned in 1935-36 when Kodak laboratories developed Kodachrome soon to be followed by the paper processes of Kodacolor (1942). The German Agfa-color was introduced in 1943, which definitively put small size color photography within everybody‘s range. The Polacolor of E.H. Land, an instantaneously developed process appears in 1952 and it evolved into the household name Polaroid in 1972.
Nadia Valla (2006)
710.05 Process and product > Packaging for autochromes
Publications using Autochromes
710.06 Process and product > Autochromes: L'Illustration
On June 10 1907, L'Illustration, the first illustrated French magazine founded in 1843 organized at its Paris headquarters the official launch of the color process patented four years earlier by the Lumière brothers: the Autochrome.
In front of an audience of six hundred selected guests including major personalities from the arts, politics and the press, Auguste Lumière unveiled the "miracle" of color photography. L'Illustration was the perfect place for establishing international interest and the conference was a great success. A few days later, in its June 15 1907 issue, L'Illustration was able to offer its readers the first color photo feature in the history of the press by publishing the Autochromes plates taken by a collaborator to the magazine, Léon Gimpel, a pioneer of photo reportage, who had been initiated into the Autochrome process by the Lumière brothers themselves.
Several Autochromes were reproduced on separate plates and inserted in the magazine: including one that showed a group of infantry soldiers in Paris photographed on May Day 1907.
The first news photograph in color that appeared in the Illustration in 1907 was of the King and the Queen of Denmark and the article that accompanied the photograph indicated that it was a technical milestone: Taking about ten days to produce the 92,000 copies of the magazine, it was undoubtedly a major turning point and we all know what color photograph went on to become.
In the thirties, L'Illustration also used the Finlay and the Kodachrome processes to reproduce color pictures however the majority of the color images published continued to be Autochromes until the magazine ceased publication in 1944.
710.07 Process and product > Autochromes: National Geographic
Without a doubt, the most important American venue for the distribution of Autochrome imagery in the United States was within the pages of the National Geographic Magazine. Though often dismissed as pedestrian, middlebrow, and indeed, racist by the serious art/photo historian, nevertheless its photo essays have been seen and, to a certain extent, emulated by millions. Such popularity has been known, at least among certain circles, to breed contempt. That many of the names of it’s early autochromists are now obscure and unknown even among the cognoscenti of the photographic market does not diminish the fact that these were once some of the most famous names in all of photography.
The first "color" to appear in the National Geographic Magazine was a 24 page series of hand-painted scenes taken in China and Korea. The hand tinting was the work of a Japanese artist. The series appeared in the November 1910 issue. However, the first Autochrome to have been published in the National Geographic was in the July issue of 1914, just prior to the start of the First World War. The plate was titled: "A Ghent Flower Garden" by Paul G. Guilumette. The caption to the photograph read, "The picture makes one wonder which the more to admire - the beauty of the flower or the power of the camera." Two years later in the April 1916 issue, the first true Autochrome series of color photography appeared in the National Geographic Magazine. This was a series that included twenty-three Autochromes by frequent National Geographic contributor Franklin Price Knott. One of the plates published from that first series, "The Garden of Kama," is actually an Autochrome of the dancers Ruth St. Denis and her husband Ted Shawn.
The post- World War I era of color photography commenced in March 1921 with Helen Messinger Murdoch’s eight Autochromes of India and Ceylon that accompanied Sir Ross Smith’s article, "From London to Australia by Aeroplane". Murdoch thus became the first woman to have published a color photograph in the National Geographic.
From that point on, color photography, especially Autochrome photography, became a regular feature of the National Geographic Magazine. However, it was not until September, 1927 that color was included in every issue of the magazine and nearly all of that color was produced on Lumiere Autochrome plates. Between 1914 and 1938, the National Geographic published 2,355 Autochromes... far more than any other journal.
In terms of the photographers that did work for the National Geographic, it’s worth noting that of the 1,818 Autochromes that appeared in the magazine between 1921 thru 1930, nearly 94% of the plates published were made by only 10 photographers. These included the French photographer Gervais Courtellemont, who, of course, was also employed by Albert Kahn in his Archives of the Planet (1910-1931); Hans Hildenbrand, and Wilhelm Tobien in Germany, Gustav Heurlin in Sweden, and Luigi Pellerano in Italy. Pellerano, whose 41 autochromes appeared in the magazine between 1925 and 1927, was the author of a 500 page how-to autochrome manual, L’autocromista e la Practica Elementare dell Fotografia a Colori written in 1914. Hildenbrand published over 150 autochromes in the pages of the magazine though over 700 of his autochromes remain in the files of the National Geographic. This is all that remains of Hildenbrand’s work since the majority of his autochromes were destroyed during the bombing of Stuttgart in 1944. As a general rule, these photographers, working independent of each other, would develop their autochromes in the field and then send the glass plates carefully packed in wooden crates by steamer ships to New York. Most of these autochromists never saw the inside of the National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C.
In addition, several individuals were on staff with the National Geographic. These included Maynard Owen Williams, Edwin L. Wisherd who would eventually run Geographic’s photo lab, and Clifton Adams.
Fred Payne Clatworthy, one of Geographic’s illustrations editor Franklin Fisher’s favorite independent autochromist, specialized in scenic autochromes of the West. Clatworthy owned and operated a photo studio in Rocky Mountain National Park. Though Clatworthy enjoyed some of the benefits of having his work published in the National Geographic, he did not especially appreciate the low monetary remuneration he received upon publication. For his first series of sixteen autochromes used in his April 1923 article, " Western Views in the Land of the Best," Clatworthy had been paid the grand total of $160.00. As a result, Clatworthy did not submit any further autochromes to the National Geographic for several years.
Eventually, Gilbert H. Grosvenor, the magazine’s publisher intervened in Oct., 1928. He noted that Clatworthy had been paid an average of "$10 per page." He wrote to Fisher,
"Several years passed and (Clatworthy) submitted nothing. Finally he called one day and I inquired why he had not sent in any photographs, and he replied that the amount of the honorarium you (Fisher ) offered him would not pay his expenses. I therefore made him an offer of $1,000 for a series of 16 full-page negatives satisfactory to us, and within a few months he submitted a remarkable series that we printed in our June 1928 number, entitled "Photographing the West in Colors."
Grosvenor further noted that,
"This series of Clatworthy cost us $62.50 per original picture. The sum paid was enough to enable Clatworthy to recoup his actual expenses in making the pictures, but it was not sufficient to enable him to make a financial profit. I consider, however, that it was a fair price, as the great reputation he obtained from this series increases the popular demand for his lectures and the fees he obtains from these lectures."
Clatworthy eventually published 6 different series in the National Geographic, the last in 1934 by which point the Autochrome was being used much more sparingly than was the case just four years earlier. To compare, in 1930, National Geographic published 1,328 black-and-white images compared to 366 Lumiere Autochrome plates and 39 Finlay Color, which was fairly new on the scene at that time. However, by 1935, Geographic published 1,277 black-and-whites compared to just 72 Autochromes and 231 Finlay Color, which had the advantage of being more sensitive to light and therefore "faster." In 1938 the first Kodachrome appeared in the magazine. Only three Lumiere plates were published that year versus 222 Finlays, 69 Dufay’s, and 18 Agfacolors. One year later in 1939, the magazine published 8 Autochromes, 47 Finlay’s, 93 Dufay’s, 11 Agfacolors and 317 Kodachrome’s. After 1941, the National Geographic Magazine only published Autochromes in special commerative issues.
© Mark Jacobs - 2006
710.08 Process and product > Autochromes: Farbenphotographie
Autochrome photography was not only popular in France and the United States, but had an active following in many of the countries of Europe. Indeed, in a Telegram from Chairman De Metz and De Trafft to Messieurs Lumière dated January 1909, they wrote,
One of the finest autochromists yet discovered was the Russian writer Leonid Andreyev. It therefore should come as no surprise then to learn of the popularity of the process in Germany. Indeed, the Germans were perhaps the most technologically sophisticated practitioners of the only rival to the Autochrome, the three-colour separation process which reached it‘s zenith with the development by Dr. Adolf Miethe of his three-colour camera. Nevertheless, the Autochrome enjoyed wide-spread use and admiration in Germany. One of it‘s main proponents in Germany was Professor of Technology Dr. Fritz Schmidt and he produced two lavish portfolios of autochromes:
"Participants in the Second Russian Photographic Congress gathered in Kiev branch of the Russian Imperial technical Society after conference by Professor De Metz on various processes of colour photography congratulate you on your felicitous and ingenious solution to this interesting and difficult problem."|
Meesterwerken der kleuren-photographie. Eene verzameling van opnamen in de natuurlijke kleuren door middel van Lumieres autochroomplatten (Leiden: Sijthoff, 1912-1913) and a similar series entitled, Farbenphotographie: Eine Sammlung von Aufnahmen in natuerlichen Farben (Leipzig: E.A. Seemann, 1912-1913). Both series were produced as twelve books though they were sometimes bound together in one volume. Each book has a few images in the text though the majority are tipped in.
The illustrations included in this exhibit come from Farbenphotographie.
Mark Jacobs, 2006
Autochromes of the First World War (1914-1918)
710.09 Process and product > French color photographs of the First World War (Autochromes)
The First World War was the first conflict to be recorded with color photographs - a lot of these were hand colored postcards with limited detail but there are a few of extraordinary quality.
Jean-Baptiste Tournassoud (1866-1951), Chief of the Photography and Cinematography Organization of the French Army, used the autochrome process which had been patented in France in 1907.
710.10 Process and product > Autochromes and Autochromists of WWI
It probably comes as something of a surprise to the uninitiated to discover color photographs of World War II. If so, it probably comes as a shock when one discovers color photographs were made during . Few of us living today have any direct experience or knowledge of World War I. Photographs supply our visual memory of the "Great War" to us. Almost all the photographs reproduced in history books, magazines, and newspapers, have been printed black-and-white.
The autochrome was the first widely accepted process for making documentary photographs in color. Indeed, so grand was the promise of color documentary photography, that the banker and philanthropist Albert Kahn dispatched photographers to over 50 countries from 1910-1931 to provide an accurate record of daily life as it was being lived at the beginning of the twentieth century.
There were, however, two major difficulties that prevented the immediate exploitation of color documentary photography. The first was the problem of color reproduction in printed media. There was no simple and, more importantly, inexpensive half-tone method for reproducing color photographs. This limited the use of autochromes to the largest magazines and journals. In France, the largest circulation belonged to the journal L'lllustration. On June 15, 1907, only five days after it’s public introduction in Paris, L'lllustration published four autochromes by the photographer Leon Gimpel to illustrate an article Gimpel had written on the new method of color photography. L’lllustration thus became the first publication anywhere in the world to publish an autochrome in color. The January, 1908 edition of the U.S. magazine, The Century published two autochromes by Eduard J. Steichen - a portrait of Alfred Stieglitz and a portrait of Gertrude Käsebier.
The second major drawback to the use of the autochrome in documentary photography concerned the sensitivity of the plate to light. While "instantaneous" photography became somewhat common during the 1890s, the autochrome was considerably less sensitive to light when compared to contemporary black-and-white emulsions, which was due to the use of its tri-color filter layer that absorbed a great deal of light. Consequently, it made real-time war photography impractical. Nevertheless, attempts were made to document the destruction the war caused as well as providing us with glimpses of military camp life.
The WW I photographers who worked in autochrome included Captain Jean-Baptiste Tournassoud, Jules Gervais-Courtellemont, Leon Gimpel, Paul Castelnau, Fernand Cuville, L. Aubert, Albert Samama-Chikli plus others whose names are now lost.
Jean-Baptiste Tournassoud (1866-1951)
The photo-historian Nadia Valla has written definitively on Jean-Baptiste Tournassoud and suffice to say here that Tournassoud was the Managing Director of the Photographic and Cinematographic Services of the Army, which reported to the Ministry of War. His 800 autochromes of the First World War reflect daily life of the barracks, portraits of soldiers, and horses of his regiment. Tournassoud was a master of constructed narrative photography or tableaux photography. His autochromes are reminiscent of a painter, with a great focus on light and composition. Indeed, though his work has been said to be the earliest war propaganda in color, it is probably more accurate to describe the best of his war work as "cinematic".
Jules Gervais-Courtellemont (1863-1931)
Gervais-Courtellemont was born in the province of Seine-et-Marne, near Paris, but grew up in Algeria. Courtellemont had a passion for the Orient and his autochromes cover his journeys to Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Spain, India, Morocco and China. In 1911, Courtellemont opened the "Palais de l’autochromie" in Paris, which comprised an exhibition hall, studio, laboratory, and lecture hall with a seating capacity of 250. It was in this hall that Courtellemont would project his autochromes both of the Orient and, after 1914, of the war. These lectures proved to be so popular that Courtellemont issued a twelve part series later bound in book form called "The Battle of Marne" and later a four part series entitled "The Battle of Verdun." These are the first books ever published in color on war. Courtellemont’s work displays a tight sense of composition, an acute awareness of the interplay of light on color, and a haunting familiarity of symbolism.
Leon Gimpel (1878-1948)
Perhaps the finest of all the autochromist has had the fewest words written about him. As noted earlier, Leon Gimpel was the first autochromist to have one of his images published in color. Gimpel was the instigator of the inauguration of the autochrome process held on June 10, 1907 in one of the rooms of the French newspaper L’lllustration. Gimpel produced many fine series in his long career with the autochrome. Perhaps the most superb images are the series he authored known as the Grenata Street Army. As the catalogue entry from a recent Australian exhibition on World War I color photography noted:
In 1915 Gimpel befriended a group of children from the Grenata Street neighborhood in Paris who had established their own "army". He began to visit them regularly on Sundays, helping them to build their arsenal from whatever was to hand, providing direction in "casting", and recording with his camera the army’s triumphs over the evil enemy, the Boche.
Gimpel was charmed by these children and came to know each of them well: the "chief", the eldest in the garrison; his friend, who was conscripted to play the unenviable role of the Boche; and Pépète, who was "small, slightly misshaped, rather scrofulous, looking somewhat like a gnome" but who nonetheless played the part of an ace aviator. At the end of each session, Gimpel would reward the troops with barley sugar, causing all to shout with one voice, "Long live the photograph!"
There is currently insufficient data to provide any kind of biographical information on the photographer L. Aubert. Because his identified autochromes are medical in nature, one can assume he may have been a military surgeon. His autochromes of post-mortems and of diseased organs perhaps represent the greatest incongruity between the beauty of the autochrome process and the grisly subject matter of death.
Fernand Cuville (1887-1927)
Fernand Cuville grew up in the Bordeaux region of France. Apparently trained as a musician, Cuville was introduced to the photographer and autochromist Auguste Leon. Both Leon and Cuville as well Castelnau would eventually join with Albert Kahn in producing the autochromes for the Archives of the Planet. During the war, Cuville worked for the Photographic Section of the Army, created in 1915, and which employed 15 operators. It carried out its photographic missions on the Western Front in locations such as Rheims and Soissons. Mustered out from the French army in July 1919, Cuville began his employment with Albert Kahn’s "Archives of the Planet". There he photographed Versailles, Paris, England, as well as the rebuilding of the Marne, Meuse, Aisne, and Haut-Rhin. From 1919-1920, he photographed exclusively in the southwestern quarter of France (the Pyrenees, Charente-Maritime, the Gironde, Landes, and Haute-Garonne). Albert Kahn suffered financial difficulties in 1921 and Cuville was forced to find other means of employment.
Paul Castelnau (1880-1944)
Paul Castelnau studied geography at the Sorbonne. He was initially mobilized with the Geographical Service of the French Army, then with the Photographic Section. His wartime autochromes were initially taken along the Western front (the Champagne, Alsace, North, and Belgium) and after January 1918, Arabia, Palestine, Egypt and Cyprus. Along with Fernand Cuville, their autochromes covered the destruction, troop movements, and camp life. At war’s end, Castelnau photographed the rebuilding of Aisne and the Marne. Castelnau received his thesis in 1920, and then joined with Cuville as a photographer/geographer for Albert Kahn’s Archives of the Planet. In the mid-1920s Castelnau authored a documentary film on the life of termites. In about 1930 he became a surveyor. Castelnau was accused of being a collaborator and executed in June 1944 although the evidence has apparently never been clearly established.
Albert Samama-Chikli (Chikly) (1872-1933)
According to the film historian Luke McKernan, Albert Samama-Chikli, was a Tunisian Jew, who organized the first screenings of Lumiere films in a Tunis shop in 1897. A truly remarkable individual, Chikli is also credited with also introducing the first bicycle, telegraph and X-ray machine to Tunisia. However, he retained his interest in film and actually became a filmmaker in both Tunisia and France. During the WW I, Chikli filmed the French Army at Verdun in addition to his work with autochromes. Historian Gregor Murbach has identified the plates reproduced here as probably being taken by Chikli in early 1916 in Algeria and Tunisia. Murbach transcribed Chikli’s reports and noted that Chikli mentioned the building of a train line in the desert by German prisoners as well as mentioning the snow, both of which can be seen in the autochromes.
After the War, Chikly went on to make the first Tunisian fiction film, a short entitled Zohra (1922), and then the first Tunisian feature film, Ain el-Ghezal ou la fille de Carthage/The Girl from Carthage (1924). McKernan considers both feats "a remarkable achievement when African filmmaking in general was almost non-existent." His tombstone bears the epitaph: ‘Tireless in curiosity, reckless in courage, audacious in enterprise, obstinate amidst trials, resigned to misfortune, he leaves his friends’.
Most WWI autochromes were the products of French photographers. As of this writing, the only German autochromes of the War which thus far have been located exist as colored postcards. Hans Hildenbrand was known to have made many autochromes during the First World War. However, Hildenbrand‘s War autochromes were evidently destroyed in 1944 during the bombing of Stuttgart. Fortunately, almost 700 of his non-War plates were sold to the National Geographic Magazine where they are currently stored. Nor have any Russian WWI autochromes been located though two three-color images by the great photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky are in the U.S. Library of Congress’s collection. The only known American autochromes were probably taken immediately after the War’s end. The American Committee for Devastated France evidently sponsored reconstruction projects in France after the war came to an end. A group of approximately 75 autochromes records the devastation caused by the war as well as profiling some of its reconstruction projects.
There are a number of anonymous, almost always French, autochromes of soldiers. Family members of the soldiers apparently made most of these portraits when the soldiers were home on leave or, in rare cases, had portraits made by professional photographers who specialized in autochromes. As more research is conducted into the history of autochromes, there will likely be other names to add to this list. Autochromes represent an untapped resource not only for the study of the history of World War I, but also for the study of the history of the art of photography.
© Mark Jacobs – Used with permission
710.11 Process and product > Fernand Cuville: Autochromes of the First World War
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer
710.12 Process and product > Autochromes: From around the world
"A reconciled world in which every civilization could communicate and live in perfect harmony": such was the Utopia pursued by the banker Albert Kahn (1860-1940) as soon as he made his fortune.
In the gardens he had landscaped between 1895 and 1910 as the backdrop to his solitary life, Albert kahn juxtaposed the diverse scenes which reflected the world of his dreams. The Around the World travel grants (1898), the Around the World Society (1906), the Archives of the Planet (1909), the National Committee of Social and Political Studies (1916) and the Social Documentation Center of the French Ecole Normale Supérieure (1920) were all foundations that saw the light of day in his property in Boulogne and shared the same objective: to bring nations closer together, to bring about a deeper understanding of other realities throughout the world.
The Archives of the Planet consist in 72,000 Autochromes and 183,000 meters of film shot in around fifty countries of the world between 1909 and 1931.
© Albert Kahn Museum
14, rue du port
Email : email@example.com
The French photographer Gabriel Veyre was 25 years old when he was engaged by the Lumière brothers as a cinematograph operator with the mission to show to the world their new invention. From 1896 to 1900 he traveled around the globe (Cuba, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Japan, China, Indo-China and Canada) and brought back many films and photographs.
In 1901 he became the photographer and cinematographer of the Sultan of Morocco. Still in contact with the Lumière brothers who have just marketed the Autochrome, Gabriel Veyre became one of its more enthusiastic ambassadors, finding in the light of Morocco an inexhaustible source of inspiration.
He died at the same time as the autochrome plate in 1936, leaving behind hundreds of remarkable images which today are part of the visual memory of Morocco.
© Philippe Jacquier / Gabriel Veyre collection - www.gabrielveyre-collection.org
Fred Payne Clatworthy
Fred Payne Clatworthy was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1875. The son of a minister, the family moved to Evanston, Illinois in 1884. Though trained as a lawyer, Clatworthy‘s passion was photography. In 1905, Clatworthy moved to Estes Park, Colorado, eventually setting up a studio, curio shop, and gallery on it’s main street.
In 1914, Clark Blickensderfer an accomplished amateur photographer introduced Clatworthy to the autochrome process. As John Wood noted in The Photographic Arts (1997) Clatworthy "perfected his art with countless experimentation. He did not make a few autochromes, a few hundred, or even a few thousand, but more than ten thousand."
As Clatworthy became proficient with the process, he soon felt compelled to re-photograph many of the scenes that he had previously photographed in black-and-white. As a practical matter, Clatworthy sold hand-colored versions of his black-and-white images in his studio. These would vary in size, the coloring applied either in watercolor or in oil. He also sold "Albertype" postcards that were lithographic reproductions of hand-colored black-and-white postcards.
Clatworthy‘s association with National Geographic began in 1916. His first autochrome series appeared in the April 1923 issue. Titled "Western Views in the Land of the Best," it featured views of Colorado and the American Southwest. Clatworthy would not submit another series to Geographic due to the low amount of monetary remuneration (see section National Geographic and the Autochrome). However, once that situation improved, Clatworthy published an additional series beginning with the June, 1928 issue, "Photographing the West in Colors," followed by the August, 1929 series, "Scenic Glories of the Western United States." Another series appeared in July 1930, "Adventures in Color on Mexico‘s West Coast followed by a series in the July 1932 series called, "Colorado: Among the Peaks and Parks of the Rockies". The last series Clatworthy did for National Geographic was on California and appeared in November 1934: "A Sunshine Land of Fruits, Flowers, Movies, and Sport." By that point in time, autochromes were being replaced by newer color processes including Dufay, Finlay, Agfacolor, and, eventually Kodachrome.
Clatworthy would embark on an autochrome lecture circuit during the winter months when tourist season was virtually non-existent in Estes Park. Immensely popular, these lectures were delivered in all the principle cities of the US in front of crowds numbering from a few hundred to more than 3,000. It was in this endeavor, carried out over a number years, coupled with his many published autochromes that lead John Wood to declare Clatworthy "responsible for truly introducing autochromes to the American people."
Though Clatworthy was one of the most well known autochromists of his day, he, like many, if not most, of the other photographers who worked in the process, save for the Photo-Secessionists, have faded into an undeserved obscurity. This obscurity is not so much the result of the quality or importance of his work, but rather from the lack of attention photographic historians have in general paid to the autochrome process. When John Wood writes of Clatworthy, "There was no one like him in the history of the American autochrome; he was our Jules Gervais-Courtellemont" one cannot help but wonder if more than a handful of the most dedicated photo-historians know with whom he is being compared. Fortunately, the ease with which autochromes can be viewed on a computer monitor may signal a rise of awareness and interest. A chapter has been given to Clatworthy in John Wood’s The Photographic Arts (1997) and a new biography of Clatworthy by Richelle Cross Force is scheduled for release in 2006.
© Mark Jacobs 2006
Born in 1878 in France, a graduate of scientific and medical schools, Pierre Grange was an early adopter of the Autochrome process. From 1908 to 1938 he was an untiring traveler with his camera going through Switzerland, Belgium, Italy and France.
A scientific man, he stretched the capabilities of the Autochrome process, discovering for example how to push or slow down the development of the plate independently of the length of the pose.
In all, he took over 3,300 Autochromes during his many trips. Being a pioneer of the audio-visual, he lectured with projected Autochromes from his collection to the public at well attended shows."
© Philippe Grange - 2006 - firstname.lastname@example.org
710.13 Process and product > Fernand Cuville: Greece: Mount Athos
About this photographer | Photographs by this photographer
710.14 Process and product > Autochromes: Art
Nobody has written better than John Wood on the relationship between Art and the Autochrome: Here are some excerpts of his fascinating book: The Art of the Autochrome, The Birth of Color Photography
The inherent beauty of the autochrome makes it difficult at times to distinguish an autochrome that is merely beautiful from one that is a conscious work of art. It is as if the process itself had the power to confer aesthetic legitimacy on whatever was being photographed. There are, of course, exceptions, but most autochromes do seem to have the authority of art – that power to rivet our gaze and demand of our eyes that they return again and again, and the power to reward those returns with pleasure and insight. It would be interesting to know what it is about the authochrome that so compels, to know why that soft glow of suggestion, of elegant ladies in lace, of nuance and the Monet-haze of dream is so emotionally gripping, so psychologically arresting. It is as if they possess a kind of proustian power, an ability to waken in us and summon up our collective memory – or possibly a collective mythology – of a gentler past - Structures of Recollection, p. 1
…Stieglitz said, "Soon the world will be color-mad, and Lumière will be responsible….The Lumières….have given the world a process which in history will rank with the startling and wonderful inventions of those two other Frenchmen, Daguerre and Nièpce."
Coburn wrote Stieglitz to exclaim, "I too have the color fever badly and have a number of things that I am simply in raptures over." A few weeks later Coburn gave an interview in which he stated "It’s just the greatest thing that’s ever happened to photography".
And Steichen declared "I have no medium that can give me colour of such wonderful luminosity as the Autochrome plate. One must go to stained glass for such colour resonance, as the palette and canvas are a dull and lifeless medium in comparaison."
Such rapturous statements were not at all uncommon, and everyone seemed to have something to say about the autochrome…..The excitement that color photography initially inspired was probably best summed up by J. Nilsen Laurvik, an art critic and photographer who had his own exhibition of autochromes at Stieglitz’s Little Galleries in 1909 and later became director of the San Francisco Museum of Art. He wrote, "In short, color-photography marks the beginning of a new and thoroughly scientific study of color that will, no doubt, revolutionize all forms of color processes as well as exert a strong influence on the art of painting."…
… In the hands of a Kuhn, a Steichen, a Coburn, or one of the other Symbolist masters, many of those same mysteries, the same introspection, and the same beauty of their work on paper blazed out, but now in color. Speaking of this phenomenon, which, of course, is the very mystery of art and of art’s mastery, Stieglitz wrote, "Why this should be so in a mechanical process… is one of those phenomena not yet explained, but still understood by some…Those who have seen the Steichen pictures are all of one opinion…"
Though the autochrome in a practiced Symbolist’s hands was capable of effects approaching those of other Symbolist works, its inherent straightness made it the bridge between prewar and postwar photography, the link between the early issues of Camera Work and its final issues. It may even have helped convert some photographers to modernism. Few photographers, if any, embraced Symbolism more fervently than George Seeley, yet he produced a body of work in autochrome that bears no similarity to his previous work. It is as if the autochrome drove him toward realism. And though the work of many of the other major photographers of the period also changed, probably as much in response to Symbolism’s postwar irrelevance as to anything else, it is likely that the autochrome and the "color fever" it generated played a greater role than we have credited them with shaping photography’s new direction. Color Fever, p. 9,10, 15,16
The breakdown of light and the suggestion of the veil appears to be a signal for a different kind of looking than we normally perform, a kind of looking that is accompanied by an inherent an positive emotional response to what we see. I earlier suggested that the "straightness" of the autochrome made it one of the various bridges into modernism. That straightness fused to the still life, to the world of relatively dateless, pure objects produced its own kind of new objectivity, and that effect yoked to broken light – clear, precise, but diffused – produced images that caught the tensions of the modern world but were tempered by deep, positive emotional responses. That is the real magic of the autochrome….
Color Triumphant p. 41
John Wood The Art of the Autochrome, The Birth of Color Photography (University of Iowa press,, 1993).
Women photographers using Autochromes
710.15 Process and product > Autochromes: Women photographers
If the study of the contribution of women to the history of photography is a fairly recent phenomenon, then the study of the role of woman to the history of color photography can safely be said to be non-existent. However, this state of affairs is not a sign of neglect to women in particular, but rather to the general neglect that is given to the history of color photography.
Helen Messinger Murdoch (1862-1956)
The case can easily be made that the most important contribution made by a woman to the artistic and documentary acceptance and popularity of the autochrome was the American, Helen Messinger Murdoch. A Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society in England, Murdoch was asked to deliver a lecture about her work with autochromes in 1913. Murdoch‘s autochromes taken in India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka), comprised the very first full-fledged color series to have appeared in the National Geographic Magazine made by a woman photographer. No less important was the context of how those autochromes came into being. The photo-historian and curator Pam Roberts has written elsewhere on this website of how the 51 year old Murdoch "decided to embark on a round the world tour, notably the first woman photographer to make such a journey, photographing on both autochrome plates and black and white negatives." Despite those and numerous other accomplishments, Murdoch‘s contribution was completely ignored not only in both editions of Naomi Rosenblum‘s History of Woman Photographers (1994 and 2000), but incredibly enough, in Cathy Newman‘s book Woman Photographers At National Geographic (2000). Indeed, if this were not enough, John Wood reminds us: "Though some her work was exhibited at the Library of Congress‘s 1981 autochrome exhibition, it was credited to ‘Photographer unknown‘". (Art of the Autochrome, 1993).
Olive Edis (1876-1955)
History has been somewhat kinder to another Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society. (Mary) Olive Edis. A professional portrait photographer since the early 1900‘s, Edis formed a partnership with her sister Katharine in 1903. She specialized in photographing fisherman and local celebrities in the fishing village of Sheringham. Eventually that partnership was dissolved when Katharine married. Edis herself married Edwin Galsworthy, a cousin of the novelist John Galsworthy and though the Sheringham studio remained, new ones were opened in London. Edis took up autochromes in 1912 first photographing flowers and then people. By 1914, Edis was elected a Fellow of the RPS. Her autochrome portraits of many of England‘s leading figures were eventually willed to the National Portrait Gallery along with a sample of one of the autochrome viewers - called diascopes, which Edis had personally designed for her clients.
Marjory T. Hardcastle (1876-1959)
Little is known of the talented amateur Miss Marjory T. Hardcastle. Born in England in 1876, Hardcastle was most active between the years 1910 and 1915. She was known to have exhibited photographs at the Fifty-Fifth Annual Exhibition of the Royal Photographic Society (1910), the Fifty-Sixth Annual Exhibition of the Royal Photographic Society (1911), and Sixtieth Annual Exhibition of the Royal Photographic Society (1915), the last being under the curatorial directorship of Alvin Langdon Coburn. Hardcastle‘s autochromes were apparently disbursed sometime after her death in 1959.
Marguerite Mespoulet and Madeleine Mignon
In 1913, the two French photographers Marguerite Mespoulet and Madeleine Mignon set out for the heart of rural Ireland. The banker and philanthropist Albert Kahn (1860-1940) sent them on this mission for the purpose of creating an illustrated report about that land and its people. In the belief that a world where all men would live in peace assuming knowledge of the habits and customs of other men was possible, Kahn created the Archives of the Planet (1910-1931). It would be the depository, the memory of fifty countries, which once existed but exist no longer. The Archive consists of 72,000 autochromes of which only 73 were photographed by Mespoulet and Mignon. Nevertheless, the legacy of those 73 images remains some of the most beautiful and significant autochromes in the entire archive.
Jane Reece (1868-1961)
Though Reece primarily worked in black and white, a group of 55 autochromes were discovered within her collection of the 9,000 negatives which were deposited with the Wright State University library archives. According to Dominique H. Vasseur, the senior curator of Dayton Art Institute and author of Reece catalogue The Soul Unbound (1997), "...nearly half of Reece‘s autochromes are studies of unidentified friends and sitters - and indeed one appears as a family portrait - it is apparent that she generally did not consider them a part of her regular commercial work as they would have been difficult for most families to display. Her autochromes show an unusual interest in pattern and color.... In addition to the 26 portraits are 14 autochrome still lifes which range from traditional compositions of flowers and fruit to more abstracted pictures of empty ceramic bowls....Curiously though, Reece never mentioned the autochromes to anyone...." (p.41)
Agnes Beatrice Warburg (1872-1953)
Agnes Warburg, along with her brother J. C. Warburg, did much to establish the legitimacy of color photography not only in Great Britain but throughout the English speaking world. She set up the Royal Photographic Society Colour Group in 1927 with the splendidly named Violet Blaiklock and was active with the The British Journal of Photography monthly Colour Supplement (1907-1934) that was published by Henry Greenwood in London. The collection of the RPS contains the photographic legacy of both Warburgs.
G.A. Barton (1872-1938)
G.A. Barton is yet another under appreciated English autochromist. At her artistic height, Barton was perhaps the most published female photographer of her day. Mrs. G. A. Barton, or Emma, first rose to international acclaim in around 1903. Writing in the Penrose Pictorial Annual of 1911 the critic Charles E. Dawson said her work was ranked alongside "the best works of Kasbier, Duhroop, Baron de Mayer, Steichen, Demachy, Puyo, and the other photographic giants..." According to Tessa Sidey, one of the contributors to Sunlight and Shadow: The Photographs of Emma Barton 1872-1938, Barton took up autochromes by 1911 and produced a series of portraits "taken in a picturesque landscape, and so align herself with another contemporary Olive Edis, as one of the first women to take up autochromes." (p.70) Barton‘s brief flirtation with the autochrome resulted in her re-working her favourite themes, locations, and subjects of her earlier work including Breton maids, Whistlerian portraits, and Pre-Raphaelite studies including her famous image entitled "The Soul of the Rose". As Peter James noted that Barton‘s re-working of her earlier imagery, "re-affirmed her faith in the traditional values of Pictorial photography." (p.31)
Etheldreda Janet Laing (1872-1960)
Etheldreda Janet Laing was born in Ely, near Cambridge in England, where her father was headteacher of the 1000 year old King‘s School. According to the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television (U.K.), which houses a small collection of her autochromes, Laing studied art in Cambridge and became enthralled with photography. Laing decided to try color photography with the autochrome when it first became commercially available in 1907. Her autochrome portraits are primarily of her children taken in the garden of the family home, "Bury Knowle" in 1908. Another group of her plates from 1910 was much less successful both in terms of technique and their aesthetic appeal.
Sarah Angelina Acland (1849-1930)
Some of the earlier photographic work of Sarah Angelina Acland is housed in the Bodleian Library in Oxford but there is a further collection of almost 200 of her autochromes and other early color work at Museum of the History of Science in Oxford. Although almost totally unknown she experimented with a wide variety of techniques including platinum, lantern slides and early color including like Sanger-Shepherd process in 1900.
Alice Burr (1883-1963)
Though best known for her black-and-white images, the American Alice Burr also worked with autochromes.
Clara Estelle Sipprell (1885-1975)
Clara Estelle Sipprell was a professional photographer who operated studios in both Buffalo and New York City. Among her portrait sitters were Eleanor Roosevelt, Robert Frost and Alfred Stieglitz. By nature a free spirit, Sipprell, much like Helen Murdoch, was known, as one who lived life to it‘s fullest. Sipprell was drawn to the pictorial movement in photography. As she herself recalled, "I had made many photographs but took light for granted. One day I was passing through our studio room as I had many, many times to get to the reception room. I looked over to where a big chair was by the window and something happened. I saw it. I mean I had an ache of realization and then began my consciousness of light, like music, more and more my world was interpreted in terms of light, natural light." She worked in platinum, bromoil, gum, and carbon prints as well as with autochromes.
This list is by no means inclusive. Indeed, the vast majority of surviving autochromes remain unidentified as to the photographer. It is quite likely that many of those images were the artistic endeavors of women autochromists. In addition, many autochromes are waiting to be discovered, buried in attics and basements both in the US and in Europe. Nor does this list include those women such as the photographer Laura Gilpin who briefly experimented with the process and produced Pictorialist looking still life‘s but quickly abandoned the process preferring the qualities of black-and-white photography.
This short essay has not attempted to address the question of whether there was a "feminine" way of approaching color, or, if you will, a "feminine" aesthetic, which can be said to have developed among women autochromists. No valid conclusions can be drawn from such a tiny sample. Except in the cases of Murdoch and Edis, the quantity of surviving plates will not permit any pertinent or supportable conclusions. The best one can say in that regard is that both Murdoch and Edis developed a personal aesthetic, their own style, which enables those familiar with their body of work to claim attribution of authorship with some degree of accuracy. That in of itself is no small accomplishment. Also, James Rhem reminds us that the late photo-historian Peter Palmquist demonstrated how extensive women‘s involvement with photography in America was in the nineteenth century. The abundance of women doing autochromes underscores that there were adventurous and creative women ready to try and achieve impressive results in this new photographic medium, color. In a 1914 article addressing career choices for women, while at her own height as an autochromist, what Olive Edis wrote concerning a career as a studio owner applies equally as well to those women would made use of the autochrome, "If time and space permitted, a personal tribute to the delights of running a studio would include a kaleidoscopic reminiscence of the most varied and interesting experience which would convince the would-be photographer that, at any rate, it is a life worth living, with no monotony about it, and constantly bringing the worker in touch in a very pleasant way with humanity."
© Mark Jacobs - 2006
[With thanks to Pam Roberts for additional information.]
Amateur photographers using Autochromes
710.16 Process and product > Autochromes: Amateurs
With the advent of the new Autochrome plate came a rush of photographers to capture the world in all its color. Arriving at a time when creating full color photographs was a complicated and exacting task the ease of the Autochrome process enabled talented amateurs as well as professionals to document their experiences at home as well as abroad. Earlier methods called for multiple exposure cameras and the use of two or three black and white negatives shot through different colored filters and printed or laminated together to provide the illusion of a true color image. In addition to the technical aspects of the three color processes came the hurdle of possessing the knowledge and the physical facility of an adequately equipped darkroom to complete the work. Once the Lumiere process was commercially available in the summer of 1907, the world of color photography became a more accessible and widely accepted practice. Initially the production and the cost of the plates was a limiting factor. There was short supply during the first few months of the plates release to the public; the demand was so great that the Lumiere factory had difficulty keeping up with adequate production.
By September of that first year the factory was able to maintain a steady inventory to meet the ever-growing popularity that the plate was enjoying. As supply and availability volleyed back and forth the effect could be seen in the increasingly high price of the plates outside of France.
This situation lead the English photographer J.C.Warburg to write an open letter to the British Journal of Photography decrying the disparately higher price that one paid in England for the Autochrome plate. But, by 1913 the Lumiere factory was able to produce nearly 6,000 plates a day.
Photographers of all skill levels addressed the standards of earlier photography and painting, landscapes, still life’s, architecture and portraits were all explored with the new system of color photography. The images created reflect the fact that it was apparently the wealthier classes who had the opportunity to make use of the Autochrome plate. Vacations in the Alps, beautiful French interiors and scenes of family and friends in repose are typically seen in the works of the amateur photographer. Many of the images are idyllic and warm, representing views of a seemingly more simple time and privileged culture. And yet, the Autochrome lent itself to the less opulent scenes of life, most notably the images from WW1. Although there were many competing processes that were created around the same time as the Autochrome, it was the most popular and constantly in demand of the auto screen processes.
It’s closest rivals were the Agfa screen plate and the Paget plate, although they had a slight advantage in terms of film speed, allowing for slightly quicker exposure times, they lacked the overall visual appeal that the softer, longer tonal scale that the Autochrome had. In the early and mid 1930s the Finlay plate and the Dufay plate made returns to production after being off the market since the late teens.
The introduction of a film based material marked a change in technology that the Lumiere factory met with a new product called Filmcolor, later renamed Lumicolor. This was the same type of random dot matrix pattern applied to a flexible film stock that was available in rolls as well as sheets. The process was only on the market until the mid 1930s when the Kodak Company released it’s Kodachrome process, which took, over the lion‘s share of the amateur market.
With the film based materials, faster exposure times and handheld camera’s the Lumiere’s ground breaking Autochrome process met it’s ultimate end as the color snapshot aesthetic found it’s true beginning that has lasted long into the age of digital imaging.
© Hugh Tifft
Boulouch, Nathalie, 2011, Le ciel est bleu: Une histoire de la photographie couleur, (Textuel) isbn-10: 2845974264 isbn-13: 978-2845974265 [French] [Δ]
Coe, Brian, 1978, Colour Photography: The First Hundred Years, 1840–1940, (London: Ash & Grant) [Δ]
Coote, Jack H., 1993, The Illustrated History of Colour Photography, (Surbiton, England: Fountain Press) [Δ]
Friedman, Joseph S, 1944, History of Color Photography, (Boston: American Photographic) [Δ]
Lavédrine, Bertrand, 2013, The Lumière Autochrome: History, Technology, and Preservation, (Getty Publications) [Δ]
Laverdrine, Bertrand et. al., 2009, L'autochrome Lumière: Secrets d'atelier et défis industriels, (Comité des travaux historiques et scientifiques - CTHS) isbn-10: 2735506789 isbn-13: 978-2735506781 [French] [Δ]
Okuefuna, David, 2008, Albert Kahn: Le monde en couleurs Autochromes 1908-1931, (Chne) isbn-10: 2842779274 isbn-13: 978-2842779276 [French] [Δ]
Okuefuna, David, 2008, The Dawn of the Color Photograph: Albert Kahn's Archives of the Planet, (Princeton University Press) isbn-13: 978-0691139074 [Δ]
Okuefuna, David, 2008, The Wonderful World of Albert Kahn: Colour Photographs from a Lost Age, (BBC Books) isbn-10: 1846074584 isbn-13: 978-1846074585 [Δ]
Roberts, Pam, 2007, A Century of Colour Photography: From the Autochrome to the Digital Age, (London: Andre Deutsch) [Δ]
Wood, John, 1993, The Art of the Autochrome: The Birth of Color Photography, (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press) [Δ]
Readings on, or by, individual photographers
Lartigue, Jacques-Henri, 1980, Les autochromes de J.H. Lartigue: 1912-1927, (Paris: Editions Herscher) [Δ]
If you feel this list is missing a significant book or article please let me know - Alan - email@example.com
Fred Payne Clatworthy (1875-1953) • Fernand Cuville (1887-1927) • Olive Edis (1876-1955) • Arnold Genthe (1869-1942) • Jules Gervais-Courtellemont (1863-1931) • Léon Gimpel (1878-1948) • Pierre Grange • Albert Kahn (1860-1940) • Heinrich Kühn (1866-1944) • Jacques-Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) • Auguste Lumière (1862-1954) • Louis Lumière (1864-1948) • Lumière Brothers • Helen Messinger Murdoch (1862-1956) • Albert Samama-Chikli (1872-1933) • George H. Seeley (1880-1955) • Edward Steichen (1879-1973) • Jean-Baptiste Tournassoud (1866-1951) • Gabriel Veyre (1871-1936)
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