Colourful new discoveries from the early days of photography, 1980

  • July 16, 2023
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The inventiveness and artistry of the Lumière brothers

A nude woman reclines on a tumble of fabric, a flower in her hair and bracelet on her wrist, frankly challenging the viewer with her gaze. It’s almost Manet’s Olympia, but not quite. This photograph is an Autochrome, the process invented by Auguste and Louis Lumière in 1904 and explored by the Observer Magazine on 2 November 1980, with recently unearthed images from the French Photographic Society.

Autochrome was an early answer to frustration at the limitations of photography in capturing the colour and complexity of real life and its secret was an ‘unlikely ingredient’: potato starch. ‘Minute grains of starch were dyed in primary colours, carefully mixed and held on a glass plate with silver bromide solution.’

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