Autochrome Lumière Mauretania


I love when several of my interests intersect in ways I didn’t expect!

I’ve been reading up on the Autochrome Lumière process, which was an early form of colour photograpy. Rather than using a subtractive process like we see on film, these instead superimposed screen plates of differing colours to create the final image.

If you squint, you could almost pretend the pattern of coloured grains on an autochrome plate was a CMOS sensor on a modern digital camera! Insead of light being detected by various segments however, these colours permitted specific wavelengths of light to shine through to the exposure underneath, thereby creating a colour image.

It produced results with a very specific aesthetic; almost as though they’ve been run on a VHS tape. Lots of early photos I assumed had been colourised were instead made using this process, especially during the 1920s and 30s.

Public domain photo of the Mauretania in dry dock in 1928, by Clifton R.Adams

I noticed Wikipedia’s article on the original RMS Mauretania had a color photo using the process. Its the only other time I’ve seen a colour image that wasn’t from her last days before scrapping, and the only one while she still had her standard ocean liner colours.

I wonder how many other colour photos from the turn of the century are out there? I’d love to see them.

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