Color Photography in the 19th Century and Early 20th Century: Sciences, Technologies, Empires

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Upcoming Meetings

There are no currently scheduled upcoming events.

Past Meetings

  • September 19, 2023

    Chromatic Imagination: Realising Early Colour Photography in Britain, 1890 to 1939
    When colour photography emerged in industrialised societies in the late nineteenth century it sparked industrial and scientific interest for some and aesthetic and conceptual concern for others. Over the course of fifty years, from 1890 until 1939, the accessibility of colour photography changed dramatically, culminating with the widespread uptake of Kodak Corporation’s Kodachrome colour-coupler technology in the late 1930s. Kodachrome reversal film redefined the photographic industry. It was celebrated as the solution to nearly one hundred years of research and development concentrated on finding a way to make affordable and practical colour pictures, and was so proficient that by the early 1940s it was in position to usurp the majority of competing colour processes established before it.
    The flourishing industry of colour photography that existed before Kodachrome was driven largely by improvements in technology, including the introduction of aniline dyes and faster equipment; increased accessibility because of changing economies; and evolving conceptions of colour in public consciousness as it related art, advertising and collective taste. Although most nascent colour photography enterprises failed, the sheer volume of processes introduced signifies an enormous amount of creative velocity attributable to diverse thought and experimentation on behalf of colour photography’s innumerable stakeholders. Through consideration of the meaning of colour in contemporary British society, and the economic and social networks that underpinned the industry, this thesis aims to establish a stronger understanding of the competitive and dynamic market for early colour photography between 1890 and 1939.
    Hana Kaluznick is Assistant Curator of Photography at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). She was Assistant Curator of the expansion of the V&A Photography Centre (2023) and has contributed to other V&A displays including Known and Strange (2021) and Valérie Belin / Reflection (2019). She is a PhD student at the University of Liverpool studying the industrial history of early colour photography.
    Suggested reading is the first chapters of ‘Chromophobia’ by David Batchelor
    Target audience: Historians of Britan, Curators, Industrial Historians.

  • June 20, 2023


  • May 16, 2023

    Eastman Kodak and Early Color Photography: From Competitive Threat to Research and Promotional Tool 
    by Prof. Joris Mercelis (Johns Hopkins University).
    My presentation will briefly outline my current book project, “The Long Shadow of Kodak: Market Dominance and Scientific Control in Twentieth-Century Photography,” before turning to the aspects of this work-in-progress that might be most relevant to members of this working group. My book examines the nature and scope of the Eastman Kodak Co.’s influence over photographic knowledge production and circulation, exploring to what extent this multinational enterprise could translate its near-monopolistic position on markets for photographic film and cameras into scientific and technological control. Although color photography is not a specific focus of this research, it mattered in several different ways, three of which I highlight in this talk. First, from at least 1904 onward, Kodak founder George Eastman and his associates approached color photography as a (potential) technological alternative that posed a major competitive threat and therefore had to be controlled.
    This concern about market dominance prompted Kodak to invest substantially in color-related research and development work—most famously but by no means exclusively at the Kodak Research Laboratory in Rochester, NY, which was even partly established for this reason. Second, in parallel to Kodak’s search for a color photography process suitable for the mass amateur market, the company’s researchers managed to improve the sensitivity of photographic materials to specific regions of the light spectrum, thus helping to create new photographic visions valuable for scientific and military purposes. For instance, from the 1910s onward, Kodak supported the development of infrared photography and the “thermal vision” that this technique enabled. Not untypically, Kodak took into account the interests in infrared imaging of users ranging from anthropologists and art conservators to astronomers and the photographic surveillance personnel of the U.S. Army Air Corps, and several of these groups effectively came to depend on the company for their specialized photographic needs. Third and finally, within five years of the public announcement of three-color Kodachrome film in 1935, scientific institutions with which Kodak collaborated had started using color photography as a marketing tool. For example, in the context of a tropical photography research program initiated early in World War II, Kodak and its military and civilian partners used Kodachrome not only for research purposes (e.g., to document material-damaging fungi) but also to generate enthusiasm for the study of tropical biology. More specifically, with Kodak’s support, Kodachrome color slides and motion pictures were deployed extensively to promote the U.S.-controlled biological station in Panama that later became known as the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
    Joris Mercelis is an assistant professor at the Department of History of Science and Technology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. His research interests include the economic history of science and technology and the histories of chemical and photographic technology, science, and business. He is the author of Beyond Bakelite: Leo Baekeland and the Business of Science and Invention (MIT Press, 2020) and a co-editor of special journal issues of Ambix, History and Technology, and Management & Organizational History.
    Recommended reading: 
    Mercelis Joris. “Commercializing Academic Knowledge and Reputation in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries: Photography and Beyond.” History and Technology 23–52.
    Mercelis Joris. 2022. “‘Men Don’t Like to Work Under a Woman’: Female Chemists in the Photographic Manufacturing Industry Ca. 1918–1950.” Ambix 291–319.


  • April 18, 2023

    In Natural Colours. Three Colour Photography in Spain. 
    Laura Covarsí. April, 2023.
    In the first quarter of the 20th century, the definitive evolution of colour photographic processes took place, but also its commercialization. Apart from the well-known success of autochromes, various other trichromatic colour processes appeared, that would perfect the production of colour images in books and magazines and satisfy the increasing appetite for them.
    But not all of these trichromatic photographic processes had the same application. Some of them were used to obtain colour images on paper demanded by a smaller market: the amateur photographer and the client of photographic studios. These exclusive products, especially when we think of trichromatic colour portraits, became more accessible to the general public from the twenties onwards after the resolution of some technological impediments such as the simultaneous shooting of the three-colour separation negatives. These techniques are included in the group of subtractive colour processes, and we consider them photomechanical since only dyes are used for their final printing step and no photosensitive materials are involved. Techniques such as Hicro, Pinatype, Sanger- Shepherd, Uvatype or Jos-Pe are some of the commercial names for these processes.
    Due to the lack of knowledge of these techniques, many of these prints in museums and archive collections are not correctly identified or catalogued. And neither are the printing matrices, colour separation negatives and other materials used in the process. They remain hidden among other negatives and positives in the collections, waiting to be discovered.
    This presentation illustrates this situation from the specific case of the Jos-Pe process (dye imbibition process patented in Germany in 1924) and its apparent absence in Spain. The lack of identified specimens in our collections led us to believe that the process was not used. However, the discovery of a portrait of Nobel laureate Santiago Ramón y Cajal, an outstanding theoretician of colour photography in Spain, made with this process, prompted the beginning of this research.
    Jos-Pe Farbenfoto. (1927 and 1930). Hamburg.
    Covarsí, L. (2022). The Jos-Pe process in the Jacob Merkelbach collection at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. COLOR CULTURE AND SCIENCE Journal. Milan : Gruppo del Colore – Associazione Italiana Colore. DOI: 10.23738/CCSJ.00.
    Friedman, J. (2010). History of color photography. Milton Keynes, UK: Lightning Source.
    Koshofer, G. (1986). Die Farbfotografie III. Lexikon der Verfahren, Geräte und Materialien. München: Laterna Magica /Callwey.
    Pénichon, S. (2013). Twentieth-century color photographs. Los Angeles: The Getty Conservation Institute.
    Proaño, A., Neevel, H. (2020). Analysis of Jos-Pe colourants used in Jacob Merkelbachs photographs from the 1930s. RCE Research Report No. 2018-126.Ministry of OCW, Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, Cultural Heritage Laboratory. Amsterdam
    Ramón y Cajal, S (1912). La fotografía de los colores : bases científicas y reglas prácticas. Madrid: Ed. Moya.
    Wall, E., 1928. Practical color photography. Boston: American photographic Pub. Co.
    Willekens, L.C.C. (1926). Het Jos-pé Kleurenprocédé. Fotografische bibliotheek, 11A. Dordrecht: C. Morks Cz.
    Laura Covarsí Zafrilla is an independent conservator and researcher specialized in photographic heritage. She received her M.A. in Conservation from Instituto Politécnico de Tomar, Portugal, with an internship in the photographic archive of the Maritime Museum of Barcelona (Spain). She previously studied History of Art (University of Salamanca, Spain) and Photography (School of Arts of Huesca, Spain). She worked for public and private collections in Spain and at the Rijksmuseum of Amsterdam between 2017 and 2019. She also works as a photography curator.
    Laura Covarsí. Abril, 2023.
    En el primer cuarto de siglo XX se produce la evolución definitiva de los procedimientos fotográficos en color, pero sobre todo se desarrolla su comercialización. Al margen del conocido éxito de los autochromes, en este panorama hacen aparición otros procesos que, aplicando los principios de la fotografía tricroma, perfeccionarán la impresión de imágenes en color en libros y revistas.
    Pero no todos estos procesos fotográficos tricromos tuvieron la misma aplicación. Algunos de ellos se emplearon para obtener copias en color sobre papel, demandadas por otro tipo de clientes, un mercado de menor alcance: el fotógrafo amateur y el cliente de los estudios fotográficos. Un producto exclusivo, sobre todo si hablamos del retrato, más accesible a partir de los años veinte tras la resolución de algunos impedimentos tecnológicos como el disparo simultáneo de los tres negativos de separación de color, que hasta el momento hacía difícil el desarrollo de este género. Estas copias en color son fotomecánicas ya que para su impresión final solo se emplean colorantes y no están implicados materiales fotosensibles. Nombres como Hicro, Pinatype, Sanger- Shepherd, Uvatype o Jos-Pe son algunos de los nombres comerciales para este procedimiento.
    Debido al desconocimiento de estas técnicas en el entorno de museos y archivos, no solo muchas de estas copias no están identificadas o catalogadas correctamente, sino que tampoco los artefactos fotográficos empleados en el proceso (matrices de impresión, negativos de separación de colores,…) lo están y permanecen ocultos entre otros negativos y positivos de las colecciones, esperando a ser descubiertos.
    Esta presentación ilustra esta situación desde el caso concreto del proceso Jos-Pe (proceso tricromo de imbibición patentado en Alemania en 1924) y su aparente ausencia en España. La inexistencia de ejemplares en nuestras colecciones nos llevaba a pensar que no se empleó. Sin embargo, el descubrimiento de un retrato del premio Nobel Santiago Ramón y Cajal, destacado teórico de la fotografía en color en nuestro país, realizado con este proceso, ha supuesto un cambio en esta idea y el inicio de esta investigación.
    Laura Covarsí Zafrilla es conservadora e investigadora independiente especializada en patrimonio fotográfico. Obtuvo su MA en Fotografía, Conservación de Patrimonio Fotográfico en el Instituto Politécnico de Tomar (Portugal), realizando las prácticas en el Archivo Fotográfico del Museo Marítimo de Barcelona. Previamente estudió Historia del Arte (Univ. Salamanca) y Fotografía (Escuela Superior de Artes de Huesca). Ha trabajado para colecciones públicas y privadas en España y en el Rijksmuseum de Amsterdam. También trabaja como comisaria de exposiciones de fotografía.

  • March 21, 2023

    Illuminating Fashion: the colour of clothes in Autochromes 1907-1930
    Presenter: Cally Blackman (Senior Lecturer, Central Saint Martins, UAL, London)
    This presentation addresses Cally Blackman's book which will examine fashion between 1907-1930 through the lens of the autochrome as a robust register of colour. A technological advance, the autochrome links photography with fashion, often upheld as a metaphor for modernity, and both
    were integral in mediating the influence of colour on commerce and consumer culture at this period.
    (Published by Thames & Hudson early 2024).
    Reading Material, attached below:
    - Cally Blackman. Costume Journal, vol.48, no.2, 2014, "Colouring the Claddagh: a distorted  view?"
    - Cally Blackman. Costume Journal, vol.56, no.1, 2022, "The Colour of Fashion at the Salon du Goût Français: a virtual exhibition of French luxury commodities, 1921-1923."
    Targeted Audience: French Studies, Fashion Studies, Curators, Designers,
    Cally Blackman is a fashion historian with over twenty years experience of teaching and writing, having published several books on the subject: 100 Years of Fashion Illustration 2007, 100 Years of Menswear 2009, 100 Years of Fashion 2012, A Portrait of Fashion 2015 and Fashion Central 2019. She has been researching the representation of fashion and clothing through autochromes for much of this time, its importance to the field being that this process affords a unique and robust register of colour during the period it was in use that is more reliable than other types of visual media, including printed material and even painting, and therefore is extremely useful as evidence of the colour of clothes in high fashion and the everyday dress of ordinary people. She has given several presentations on this topic at international conferences, including: in 2014 Mode et Guerre Europe 1914-18: fashion, dress and society during World War 1 at L'Institute Francais de la Mode, Paris; in 2015 Fashion at 84th Anglo-American Conference of Historians, Institute of Historical Research, University of London; in 2018 Der Wereld in Kleur: kleurenfotographie voor 1918, Allard Pierson Museum Amsterdam; in 2021 Colour Fever, V&A, London.
    Her forthcoming book is the first to use the autochrome as a medium for viewing the history of fashion and will include approx. 350 examples of autochromes and complimentary images, and 40,000 words of text and captions. The autochromes, some of which have not been published before, have been sourced from museum, archive and private collections all over the world. In addition, Cally is acting as co-curator and consultant on a forthcoming exhibition, Les Couleurs de la Mode, at the Palais Galliera, Paris, of autochromes from the Salon du Gout Francais archive from June 2023-March 2024.

  • February 21, 2023

    Hello everyone,
    Thank you all for your interest in this group. A special hello to all new members!

    Janine & Hanin are taking February off in order to update the group definition, launch some projects in relation to color, and do some internal work on the future of this wonderful platform.
    We will be reconvening in March with an exciting talk (more infos soon) that you will not want to miss, and we have plenty of thrilling presentations lined up for you this year!
    Please feel free to reach out to us for any reason you like (present your research, pitch an idea, ask a questione, communicate your CfP etc.) via the CHSTM, by clicking on "Contact Group Conveners" and we will get back to you.
    Keep your eye on our newsletter, published twice a month!
    Best wishes from Hanin & Janine

  • January 17, 2023

    Whether Mechanical Mimesis: A Sensitometric look at Colour Photography in the 19th century.
    Presenter: Rahul Sharma
    This presentation aims to be a provocation for theoretical discussion on the notion of mimesis and referentiality in colour photography in the 19th century. To this end, I will present a brief summary of constraints colour reproduction faced in the 19th century (and still faces today) from a colour science and sensitometric perspective. To do so, I will use examples like Photochrom (Aäc) process, and Maxwell’s Tartan Ribbon, and compare them with hand painted photographs.
    Here, Photochrom is a colour photolithographic process that could generate colour prints from single black and white negatives. Maxwell’s Tartan Ribbon was a demonstration carried out in 1861, wherein a tartan ribbon was photographed in three monochrome plates using Red, Green, and Blue colour filters; and the resultant positive images projected together to create the world’s first three colour image.
    I will argue that colour in photographs as a mechanistic process, approached (and still does) absolute fidelity asymptotically. This is due to technical constraints still being resolved to date.  Rather, any semblance of colouristic ‘reality’ in most 19th century photographs was a result of considerable manipulation by the practitioner. I will further contend that the extent of the manipulation is such that there exist close parallels between three colour prints, and hand-painted photographs.
    Rahul Sharma is a graduate of the program in photograph conservation from University of Amsterdam, and the conservation program of the National Museum Institute, New Delhi, specializing in technical imaging. In addition to his conservation practice, Sharma is a practicing darkroom printer.
    Suggested readings:

    Target audience: Newcomers to the research on color photography circa 1900, PhD students, curators, conservators, established researchers.

  • December 20, 2022

    HOLIDAY SPECIAL: Focus Sessions, Q&A, & Social Gathering!
    In order to kiss 2022 goodbye and to go into the new year filled with optimism, joy, and color photography inspiration, Janine and Hanin have prepared December special just for you! This informal session will be organized as follows:
    1. Janine Freeston: "Women Making Color Photographs" (15 + minutes)
    Who are the women who produced color photographs? How did they contribute to the nascent trichromatic color photography processes at the turn of the last century? Are there more of them languishing in archives who have yet to be fully appreciated and how scholars uncover it?  As the history of photography continues to evolve in its appreciation of women photographers, the substantial significance that women contributors made to color photography requires consolidation, such as Angelina Acland, Agnes Warburg, Violet Blaiklock, Marjory T. Hardcastle and Olive Edis to name a few. This talk highlights women working on unresolved color processes that demanded more technical, scientific and methodological prowess than that required from their counterparts working in monochrome. For example, some processes lacked chromatic fidelity, and yet a cohort of experimenting highly skilled photographers, a significant number of whom were women, persevered to offer numerous nuanced improvements that had evolved through their practical experiences or supplied work that supported the commercial potential that color photography presented.
    I hope to appeal to members of this working group to interrogate their own resources and work together in amassing geographical, technical and biographical findings from the locations they are familiar with to provide a cogent and geographically balanced historical perspective highlighting the means and methods of contributions made by women beyond the exhibition of images. 
    2. Looking backwards/looking forwards: 2023 schedule aka what we have in store for you! (10 minutes)
    3. For you
    The rest of our time together during this session will be spent socializing, asking questions, discussing in break-out rooms in a relaxed setting whilst Hanin tells her jokes. Why? Because we would love to get to know each and every one of you better and continue building our color photography community. This has been an beautiful journey for us and we are thrilled to be heading to 2023 together with you. Feel free to invite your friends and colleagues to join. Pets are also welcome. We love seeing them on camera!
    Target audience: Gender Studies, History of Science, History of Physics, Group Members, Interested Parties.

  • November 15, 2022

    Colour Empires of Prokudin-Gorskii
    Presenter: Nadezhda Stanulevich
    During the presentation, we will consider facts about colour photographs by Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii and his activity in Russia and France. We will look at the scientific career of a famous photographer, as well as questions around the identification of Prokudin-Gorskii's photographs, concreting types of photographic materials like negatives and slides, prints, postcards, etc. We will reference different Russian State and private collections. Moving to the colour prints of the French period will allow you to look at the work of the photographer and his family more than through the prism of Russian imperialism.
    Nadezhda Stanulevich is a photo historian. She defended her Candidate of Science dissertation entitled Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii and his contribution to the development of colour photography in 2019. Most of her peer-reviewed articles focus on the history of photographic techniques, cultural aspects of photography at the beginning of the 20th century or museums photo collections. Since September 2019, she has been a Researcher at Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (the Kunstkamera).
    Target audience: Russian Studies scholars & enthusiasts, French studies scholars & enthusiasts, three-color photography scholars, curators.
    The resource made available for you is Nadezhda Stanulevich's published article "Prokudin-Gorskii’s technique of colour photography: colour separation, additive projection and pigment printing".

  • October 18, 2022

    **Note Special Time**
    Tuesday, October 18, 2022 2:30 pm to 4:00 pm BST
    Presenters: Catlin Langford 
    Talk Title: Autochromes and Representation
    Please refer to the resource section for reading material. 
    In this session, we will consider ideas around autochromes and representation. We will look at means of representing the unique materiality of autochromes, as well as questions around the representation and exploration of the process through the lens of colonialism, imperialism, and ethics, reflecting on accessibility, exposure, interpretation, and learning. We will initially reference the V&A’s collection of over 2,500 autochromes, noting recent activities to explore, catalogue, publish and exhibit this collection, before moving to the collections of the National Geographic and Albert- Kahn Museum, the latter having recently reopened in Paris following extensive renovations.    
    Target audience: Newcomers to the research on color photography circa 1900, PhD students, curators, conservators, established researchers.
    Reading material:
    Doug Peterson, ‘Preserving the National Geographic Society’s Autochrome Collection’, Digital Transitions Heritage, 11 March 2019,
    Kjetil Ansgar Jakobsen and Milena Nikolova, ‘The Kahn Archive: A Visual Memory That Is Truly Comopolitan?’, in Cosmopolitics of the Camera: Albert Kahn’s Archives of the Planet, Intellect, 2020 (pages: 155-77)
    Suggested further reading:
    Brian Hochman, Savage Preservation: The Ethnographic Origins of Modern Media Technology, University of Minnesota Press, 2014.
    Please note that the reading material "Colour Mania" written by Catlin Langford has been posted for the purpose of study and should not be transmitted to third parties without the consent of the author.

Group Conveners

  • Janine's picture

    Janine Freeston

    Free-lance researcher, cataloger and digitizer of photographic archives, author, consultant, co-curator of photographic exhibitions, tutor and associate lecturer. She specializes in early color photography and photographic processes, currently researching the associated technological and litigious aspects of trichromatic technology up to the 1930s. Her completed thesis Colour photography in Britain, 1906-1932: Exhibition, Technology, Commerce and Culture - the Dynamics that Shaped its Emergence, will shortly be available. Janine is currently co-authoring an undergraduate study guide to understanding and applying research methods for photography in cultural studies and coordinates annual research symposiums on behalf of the Royal Photographic Society Historical Group with Andrew Robinson, Senior Lecturer in Photography at Sheffield Hallam University for academics, writers and collectors at any stage of their research.


  • Hanin's picture

    Hanin Hannouch

    Dr. Hanin Hannouch (she/her) is Curator for Analog and Digital Media at the Weltmuseum Wien, where she is responsible for the collections of photography, film, and sound. Since November 2022, she has been a member of the advisory board of the European Society for the History of Photography (ESHPh). She is the editor of the first volume on interferential color photography titled "Gabriel Lippmann's Colour Photography: Science, Media, Museums" (Amsterdam University Press, 2022) and has guest-curated the exhibition "Slow Colour Photography" about it at Preus Museum: National Museum of Photography (Norway). Moreover, she is the guest-editor of the journal PhotoResearcher Nr. 37 "Three-Colour Photography around 1900: Technologies, Expeditions, Empires". Dr. Hannouch was a Post-Doc, among others, at the Ethnologisches Museum - Berlin State Museums (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation) and at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz / Max-Planck-Institut where she investigated colonial color photography in the 19th and early 20th century. She earned her PhD from IMT Lucca, Scuola Alti Studi (2017) with a dissertation on the history of film and art in the Soviet Union titled "Art History as Janus: Sergei Eisenstein on the Visual Arts," after completing an international Masters degree in art history and museology (IMKM) at the Ecole du Louvre in Paris and the University of Heidelberg in Germany (2014), as well as another Masters (2012) and a Bachelors focusing on European modern art at the Université Saint-Esprit de Kaslik (Lebanon). She speaks Arabic, French, English, German, Italian fluently and continues to learn Russian. Currently, she is writing her monograph on the history of color photography in Imperial Germany, as well as another book on the history of the photography collection at the Weltmuseum Wien.


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