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Adding Colour to Photography
Even though the first photographic processes began to appear around 1840, painters held one important "ace in the hole" when it came to reproducing reality on a two-dimensional surface--colour. That is until 1907. Ninety 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 colour filters. A layer of silver bromide emulsion covered the starch. When developed, the process yielded a positive colour transparency much akin to the paintings of the Post-impressionist George Seurat done some twenty years before.

Well, so much for our monopoly on colour! Unbelievably, given the almost continuous development of photography in the last 150 years, the Autochrome process was not replaced until Kodak began to produce colour film some 25 years later using basically the same principles but with more advanced chemistry.

Contributed by Lane, Jim
21 November 1997


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