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Author Topic: 100 year old color pictures  (Read 10552 times)

bjanes

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100 year old color pictures
« on: May 08, 2016, 09:15:07 am »

The Washington Post has published some remarkable color photos taken 100 years ago by a Russian photographer who took composites with 3 color filters. This was well before the era of color management, profiling, and Bayer color arrays, but the results are nonetheless impressive.

Bill
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Mark D Segal

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Re: 100 year old color pictures
« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2016, 09:35:54 am »

Yes, there is a published book on this work and has been aired on BBC television (I think it was) at some time within the past several years. It's quite remarkable and worth bringing to peoples' attention. We don't often think back to the roots of colour photography and the lengths to which the early developers went for making it happen. Round about the same time Prokudin-Gorskii was making those photos, the Lumiere brothers invented the autochrome process, said to be the first reproduction of colour photographs on paper from a glass plate camera. Looking at those prints provides perspective on just how amazingly far technological progress has taken us.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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tom b

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Re: 100 year old color pictures
« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2016, 05:57:50 pm »

I have posted this link on LuLa several years before. It is quite fascinating both photographically and historically. The Wonderful World of Albert Kahn.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMiLWi0-Tsk

Possibly as an adjunct we also have recent celebrations of Cinco de Mayo and Anzac Day. The French have an interesting history of which I know little about but there are many Australian bodies buried in France to attest that fact.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinco_de_Mayo

Cheers,
« Last Edit: May 08, 2016, 06:10:09 pm by tom b »
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Tom Brown

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Re: 100 year old color pictures
« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2016, 06:01:37 pm »

Yes Tom, and the book by David Okuefuna "The Dawn of the Color Photograph" covering the Kahn archives (published by Princeton University Press) is a treasure.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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bjanes

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Re: 100 year old color pictures
« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2016, 06:19:20 pm »

I have posted this link on LuLa several years before. It is quite fascinating both photographically and historically. The Wonderful World of Albert Kahn.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMiLWi0-Tsk

Possibly as an adjunct we also have recent celebrations of Cinco de Mayo and Anzac Day. The French have an interesting history of which I know little about but there are many Australian bodies buried in France to attest that fact.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinco_de_Mayo

Cheers,

I looked at the Kahn photographs in the BBC video. However, they are not technically nearly as good as those by the Russian with respect to color quality and sharpness, Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii. Are we talking about the same images?

Bill
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tom b

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Re: 100 year old color pictures
« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2016, 07:03:16 pm »

Honestly, talking about the technical quality of 100 year old photographs in a video posted on YouTube.

I like LuLa, but it really attracts the technical photographic pedants.

Cheers,
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Tom Brown

Mark D Segal

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Re: 100 year old color pictures
« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2016, 07:42:34 pm »

I looked at the Kahn photographs in the BBC video. However, they are not technically nearly as good as those by the Russian with respect to color quality and sharpness, Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii. Are we talking about the same images?

Bill

Absolutely not. Different technologies with different objectives. Prokudin-Gorski produced colour transparencies on glass viewed using a projector, whereas the Autochrome process invented by the Lumiere Brothers makes prints on a single glass substrate using potato flour as the suspension for the light sensitive chemistry. So they can't be compared; perhaps somewhat akin to the differences one perceives between slides and prints these days?

(Edited for technical correction on the substrate)
« Last Edit: May 09, 2016, 08:38:29 am by Mark D Segal »
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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Mark D Segal

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Re: 100 year old color pictures
« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2016, 07:46:47 pm »

Honestly, talking about the technical quality of 100 year old photographs in a video posted on YouTube.

I like LuLa, but it really attracts the technical photographic pedants.

Cheers,

Firstly, there is absolutely nothing wrong with talking about the quality of historical photographs - it is part of the history of the medium; and secondly, you have no business spewing personal insults at forum participants engaging in this discussion.

That said, I would agree that the relative quality of these various outputs are best appreciated seeing the originals, but for most of us that is not possible, so we must rely on secondary interpretations and hope they are of indicative value.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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tom b

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Re: 100 year old color pictures
« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2016, 08:08:02 pm »

"Firstly, there is absolutely nothing wrong with talking about the quality of historical photographs - it is part of the history of the medium; and secondly, you have no business spewing personal insults at forum participants engaging in this discussion".

Mark… You obviously didn't look at the video, my comment was not about technical quality, it was more about tribal affiliations, social upheaval, conflict, war, nationalism, all that Albert Khan was all about.

I have no idea how you have read that I have been "spewing personal insults at forum participants engaging in this discussion".

A really strange post.

Confused,
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Tom Brown

Mark D Segal

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Re: 100 year old color pictures
« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2016, 08:19:34 pm »

Well let me "de-confuse" you -  when you talk about LuLa attracting "technical photographic pedants", that is insulting insofar as the word "pedant" in the English language usually has derogatory connotations. If you did not have any derogatory meaning that is fine. We can move on.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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tom b

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Re: 100 year old color pictures
« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2016, 08:24:43 pm »

Well let me "de-confuse" you -  when you talk about LuLa attracting "technical photographic pedants", that is insulting insofar as the word "pedant" in the English language usually has derogatory connotations. If you did not have any derogatory meaning that is fine. We can move on.

You really have to view the video, I will accept your apology when you have done so.

Cheers,
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Tom Brown

Mark D Segal

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Re: 100 year old color pictures
« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2016, 08:28:06 pm »

Look, I don't argue with screen names and I have nothing to apologize for, nor do I need to watch videos at your behest; I have more important things to do. You can clarify what you mean by "pedant" or just let it hang for others to think what they will of you, but I'm out of this discussion.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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Lundberg02

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Re: 100 year old color pictures
« Reply #12 on: May 08, 2016, 08:31:54 pm »

Those of you who google Prokudin-Gorski are in for a treat. Thanks, Mark
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Mark D Segal

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Re: 100 year old color pictures
« Reply #13 on: May 08, 2016, 08:36:06 pm »

Those of you who google Prokudin-Gorski are in for a treat. Thanks, Mark

You are welcome, but the thanks are to Bill who "re-surfaced" it! Unfortunately, the colour reproduction in the book, which I have seen, would appear to understate the originals, though one would need to see them to be sure of this, which I haven't. I believe there is a substantial collection in the Library of Congress, Washington.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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tom b

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Re: 100 year old color pictures
« Reply #14 on: May 08, 2016, 08:57:16 pm »

"In 1909 the millionaire French banker and philanthropist Albert Kahn embarked on an ambitious project to create a colour photographic record of, and for, the peoples of the world. As an idealist and an internationalist, Kahn believed that he could use the new Autochrome process, the world's first user-friendly, true-colour photographic system, to promote cross-cultural peace and understanding.

Until recently, Kahn's huge collection of 72,000 Autochromes remained relatively unheard of. Now, a century after he launched his project, this photography book and the BBC TV series it accompanies are bringing these dazzling historical photos to a mass audience for the first time and putting colour into what we tend to think of as an entirely monochrome age.

Kahn sent photographers to more than 50 countries, often at crucial junctures in their history, when age-old cultures were on the brink of being changed for ever by war and the march of 20th-century globalisation. They documented in true colour the collapse of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires, the last traditional Celtic villages in Ireland, and the soldiers of the First World War. They took the earliest known colour photographs in countries as far apart as Vietnam and Brazil, Mongolia and Norway, Benin and the United States. In 1929 the Wall Street Crash forced Kahn to bring his project to an end. He died in 1940, but left behind the most important collection of early colour photographs in the world."

Albert Khan used photography to explain the world. Do I care about the quality of the 72,000 images that he had photographers produce, no. However the BBC video "The Wonderful World of Albert Khan" has changed my perception of the early 20th Century.

One lesson I learnt is based on this loosely remembered quote:

"The best way to have an argument is if you don't have the facts".

The video is fascinating, you don't have to watch it, however it does explain my point of view in a way that I expect most photographers would find fascinating.

Cheers,
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Tom Brown

tom b

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Re: 100 year old color pictures
« Reply #15 on: May 08, 2016, 09:18:31 pm »

The Autochrome process.

"Unlike ordinary black-and-white plates, the Autochrome was loaded into the camera with the bare glass side facing the lens, so that the light passed through the mosaic filter layer before reaching the emulsion. The use of an additional special orange-yellow filter in the camera was required to block ultraviolet light and restrain the effects of violet and blue light, parts of the spectrum to which the emulsion was overly sensitive. Because of the light loss due to all the filtering, Autochrome plates required much longer exposures than black-and-white plates and films, which meant that a tripod or other stand had to be used and that it was not practical to photograph moving subjects. The plate was reversal-processed into a positive transparency — that is, the plate was first developed into a negative image but not "fixed", then the silver forming the negative image was chemically removed, then the remaining silver halide was exposed to light and developed, producing a positive image".

It was an interesting technique, but yep it wasn't the equivalent to today's high iso digital equivalents. The full article is below.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autochrome_Lumi%C3%A8re
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Tom Brown

tom b

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Re: 100 year old color pictures
« Reply #16 on: May 08, 2016, 10:25:22 pm »

"Prokudin-Gorsky was also acquainted with the use of Autochrome color plates, which did not require a special camera or projector. He was one of the favored few the Lumière Brothers introduced to their new product in 1906, the year before it went into commercial production.[18] Autochrome plates were expensive and not sensitive enough for casual "snapshots" with a hand-held camera, but their use was simple and in expert hands they were capable of producing excellent results. They made color photography truly practical for advanced amateurs and led some pioneering users of color separation cameras to abandon their methods as outmoded, but Prokudin-Gorsky was not won over. No Autochromes by Prokudin-Gorsky are known to survive".

So Prokudin-Gorsky and Albert Kahn's photographers both used the same process. The two differences I can see is that:

Prokudin-Gorsky appears to have acknowldged that the Autochrome proceess was poor for moving objects and he used the formal portrait techniques of the time. Albert Kahn's photographers seem to be more accepting of movement.

There seems to be a comparison of still vs video images which favours Prokudin-Gorsky.

You can see Albert Kahn's photographer images at:

http://albert-kahn.hauts-de-seine.fr/english/
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Tom Brown

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Re: 100 year old color pictures
« Reply #17 on: May 09, 2016, 03:18:21 am »

Honestly, talking about the technical quality of 100 year old photographs in a video posted on YouTube.

I like LuLa, but it really attracts the technical photographic pedants.

Cheers,

I think the use of the word pedant isn't the best but I can see where you are coming from. :(

mbaginy

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Re: 100 year old color pictures
« Reply #18 on: May 09, 2016, 04:24:53 am »

... remarkable color photos taken 100 years ago by a Russian photographer ...
I was fortunate enough to see many of these images at an exhibit some two years ago in Bonn, Germany.  Absolutely fabulous!  If ever you get the chance, do visit such an exhibition!!  You won't regret it.
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digitaldog

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Re: 100 year old color pictures
« Reply #19 on: May 09, 2016, 10:41:41 am »

This was well before the era of color management, profiling, and Bayer color arrays, but the results are nonetheless impressive.
And you could say the same about many, many color photo's taken before say 1976 or so (Bryce Bayer's patent U.S. Patent No. 3,971,065). This has what to do with color management?
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