I'll start with an explanation of what an autochrome is. An autochrome is a color photo printed on glass using potato starch. Crazy right? The process was invited by Auguste and Louis Lumière (the same Lumière brothers who invented the motion picture camera the cinématographe). The process was patented in 1903 and was used as late as the 1930s.
The process used a screen of tiny potato starch grains dyed orange-red, green and violet. The grains were dusted onto a glass plate and then covered with a layer of panchromatic silver bromide emulsion. As light entered the camera it was filtered by the dyed grains before it reached the emulsion. The exposure time for one of these images was very very long, but the result was a semi opaque positive color image on glass that required no further printing.
|Close up of Autochrome approx 1911|
Autochromes are composed of a series of tri-colored dots (as you can see in the image above) that work like a video screen. Because the dots are so small and so closely packed together the colors of adjacent dots blend together in our eyes. Light from neighboring red and green dots will create a yellow color and like from violet and green dots will make a light blue. Neat, right?
I've included some of my favorite autochromes here, but I strongly encourage you to do a quick search online for others. It's amazing how well these images have held up over time and I just love getting to see the actual colors of frocks from the 1900s and teens!
|Couple ca. 1910 by Mrs. Benjamin F. Russell.|
|Woman wearing red dress with houses in background ca. 1915.|
|Dancer wearing Egyptian-look costume with wings reaching to the floor ca. 1915|
|Cowgirl by Mrs. Benjamin F. Russell ca. 1910.|
|Lady Helen Vincent by Lionel de Rothschild ca 1910.|
|Man and women carrying suitcases by Charles C. Zoller ca 1907 - 1932.|
Unknown photographer, subject, and date... but wow. Just wow. Look at that dress! And look at those plumes on that hat! Look at that lace on her blouse! If this lady's attire doesn't scream fashion I don't know what does. Makes a girl want to start making Edwardian clothing doesn't it?
|Seneca Pool 1924 ca. 1924|
I really love these cute 1920s bathers. This pool was actually located not too far from where I went to college, but it has since been filled in. Look at how the ladies are mostly in dark wool swimsuits, but they wear brightly colored swim caps. I didn't realize that there were so many different cap color options when I wrote my 1920s swimsuit post. You learn something new every day.