Luminous Colors

Jacques Henri Lartigue, Me and my friends in the Auvergne, 1913

Kiyoshi Sakamoto, Swimming Lessons, Japan, 1927
Franklin Prince Knott, Woman outside the South Pueblo, Taos, New Mexico, ca. 1914
Jules Gervais-Courtellemont, Portrait of Young Spanish Woman, ca 1914

I have always loved the colors of autochromes, the first color process developed in 1903 by the Lumière brothers. Potato starch mixed with color dyes was used on glass plates to yield grainy, positive color images that resemble exquisite pointilist paintings. It was a difficult process. Sensitized plates had to be used within weeks. The emulsion was slow, necessitating long exposures. Yet it was championed by the most prominent photographers of the day. Alvin Langdon Coburn claimed "It's the greatest thing that ever happened to photography."

Edward Steichen's beautiful portrait of Rodin remains one of the most celebrated autochromes. In 1900, Rodin's reputation was already entrenched when a young Steichen paid him a visit with his portfolio to convince the famous sculptor to be photographed. The results in the ensuing years were some of the best photographic records of Rodin.

Edward Steichen, Rodin-The Eve, 1907

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