23 May 2008

The first color photographs of England

Anyone who has watched "Masterpiece Theater" or BBC programming has "seen" Edwardian and Victorian (and for that matter, Celtic) England in color/colour. But the Daily Mail has assembled a selection from the famous Alfred Kahn collection that is worth peeking at. The colors are somewhat muted by today's standards, probably reflecting the intrinsic properties of the autochrome process rather than any blandness of England per se.

What always amazes me about early photographs - not just of England, but of the U.S. and Germany and elsewhere - is the emptiness of streets. Granting that some photos are taken on Sunday mornings to intentionally avoid traffic, it's still striking to see the Autobahn, or American highways, or the streets of London virtually vacant. It's a reminder of the startling degree to which vehicles have taken center stage in our lives.

1 comment:

  1. Stan. Great find!

    I learned something amazing in that link. In the text it credits the color technology to the Lumiére brothers. Do you know who they are? They also invented the moving picture, in 1895.

    At Wikipedia (I am as big a fan of Wiki as you are) at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auguste_and_Louis_Lumi%C3%A8re a footnote has this to say:
    This first screening on March 22 1895 took place in Paris, at the "Society for the Development of the National Industry", in front of an audience of 200 people - among which Léon Gaumont, then director of the Comptoir de la photographie. The main focus of this conference by Louis Lumière were the recent developments in the photograph industry, mainly the research on polychromy (color photography). It was much to Lumière's surprise that the moving black-and-white images retained more attention than the colored stills photographs.

    They had color photography in 1895! Far, far earlier than I had ever imagined.

    At this web page is the entire program of the first paid film presentation (if my bad French translation is correct):
    With Quicktime all of the short films shown can be viewed. The first film, of the workers leaving the Lumiére factory, is considered the first moving picture in history.

    I hope that this all isn't off topic, but I am just amazed that these same two brothers did both moving pictures AND color photography. That blows me away!


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