100th Anniversary of Color Photography (New Web Exhibit)

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  1. WmB

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    (from the press release)

    NEW EXHIBIT FROM ONLINE MUSEUM MARKS 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF COLOR PHOTOGRAPHY


    Some of the world’s first color photographs are featured in a new web exhibit – dazzling one-of-a-kind images on glass called Autochromes. First marketed in 1907 – exactly a century ago – Autochromes brought color photography to both professional photographers and advanced amateurs. Bulding on decades of experimentation by researchers who had little success outside of the laboratory, the Lumiere Brothers of Lyon, France discovered a way to coax natural-color photographs out of ordinary black-and-white materials. What was their secret?

    You’d never know it to look at them, but Autochromes are pictures from potatoes.

    Each of these glorious color photographs is actually made up of millions of tiny specks of potato starch, dyed orange-red, blue-green, and purple—then mixed together and smashed onto a piece of glass at tremendous pressure.

    The process is explained in the new web exhibit, “Autochromes: The World Goes Color-Mad,” showing exclusively at the American Museum of Photography, www.photographymuseum.com . But this exhibit is about much more than technology: it shows how photographers first made the switch from black and white, learning to compose their pictures with a special eye for color. Sometimes the colors are bold and brilliant, as in the case of a French family seen lounging in a garden bursting with brilliant purple-blue irises. At other times, Autochrome makers chose to stress subtleties, like the grays and whites that dominate the rooftops of New York after a fresh snowfall.

    Autochromes recorded family life, vanishing cultures, and even scientific specimens. But the luminous glass images were also employed by noted photographic artists like George Seeley and Francis Bruguiere, whose Autochromes creatively explore the interplay of lighting, focus, and tonality – and, of course, color.

    Why haven’t you heard about Autochromes before this? American Museum of Photography Director Bill Becker explains, “Autochromes are fragile and they can be damaged by excessive light exposure, so the originals are rarely shown to the public. As a virtual (internet-only) museum, however, we don’t have those risks. The American Museum of Photography is pleased to provide everyone a chance to explore and enjoy these beautiful images, anywhere in the world where there’s a web connection.”

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