Saturday, October 4, 2008

Early Color Photos

Usually we think of the first color photos appearing in the period of the 1930s.

But there were at least two cases of true color photography from more than two decades before color film was developed. Here, for example, are some Russian children on a hillside in 1909.

These are not hand-tinted black and white photographs, but true color image captures. The image above shows hay storage in winter. Note the chromatic aberrations from the moving smoke.

The technique, developed by a Russian photographer, used three separate cameras in rapid succession. One plate was filtered for blue, another for red, and another for green light, and they were later composited.

This panoramic view shows the city of Tiflis (now Tblisi) in the Republic of Georgia in 1910.

Around the same time, the Lumière brothers in France developed a workable color film using dyed potato flakes. Here is an example of a photo of a horsemeat butcher shop using that process from around WW1, link:

Russian images courtesy Library of Congress. More information here.
Thanks, Chris!


Shane White said...

Wow...more examples of these...I have a bunch of these I found online years ago. Just amazing stuff too.

Compared to Kodachrome these are by far more realistic in their interpretations of color a seemingly much fuller spectrum.

I'm not sure if there was anything in between this and the Kodachrome era, but I'd like to know.


Bowlin said...

wow! That is really impressive.

Shane White said...

Here's a link to the photographer:

And the history:

according to Wikipedia.


Johnnie Sielbeck said...

How interesting -- RGB images. Thanks!!

Rob Rey said...

Very interesting! And what great color. I looked at the website, it appears that someone digitally composited the old negatives, which leaves me wondering... How were these negatives composited in 1909 without color photo paper? Were they somehow turned into lithography plates and printed on a press? Anyone have any idea?

Patrick Dizon said...

They look so contemporary! I love the first pic.

Colin said...

1909?!?! Wow that's incredible!

Hephaestos said...

Rob: Actually Prokudin-Gorskii used a slide projector initially, refiltering to the red green and blue.

Rob Rey said...

hephaestos: I wondering about that. So these were probably never printed in color back then, but only shown as a projection of three (probably very painstakingly) registered projectors filtered for each color.
very interesting.