Autochrome Photographs

Autochrome by Thomas Shields Clarke

I love old photographs, especially ones that depict people in their every day surroundings. It’s incredible to see these glimpses into the past, to explore the similarities between their lives and ours today. Autochromes were the very first examples of color photography, in 1907 they were launched publicly by the Lumière Brothers. Autochromes have a very unique color palate, incredibly vivid but also unreal and theatrical seeming. The unbelievable colors are the result of a process that involved tinted red/green/blue-violet potato starches covering the photo plate, when developed and viewed through a diascope (a mirrored light system that back-lit the photo plates) these luminous images appear in all their beautiful unreal color!

Below is an example of an autochrome inside a diascope viewer, without the mirrors to reflect light through the plate autochromes are flat and dark.

Autochrome by Thomas Shields Clarke 2

This process was very popular with all sorts of photographers including the American artist Thomas Sheilds Clark, who created the beautiful images in this post in about 1910. These were all shot at his summer house called “Fernbrook” in Lenox, Massachusetts.

The gossamer blurring on the models in his photos is a result of the long exposure times needed for autochrome photos, no one can hold truly perfectly still. His nature compositions and still life photographs are also very beautiful, but the ones of models and friends of his are my favorites.

Autochrome by Thomas Shields Clarke 2

Autochrome by Thomas Shields Clarke 2

Some of these shots seem composed deliberately and others feel more like snapshots of his models and friends on the gorgeous property. I felt they were perfect for this pre-spring time, they remind me of slow summer nights and the warm weather that’ll hopefully arrive soon.

Autochrome by Thomas Shields Clarke 2

Autochrome by Thomas Shields Clarke 2

If you would like to explore more of Thomas Sheilds Clark’s photos there’s a full array at this link!

Happy Friday everyone!



Further Reading:

2 thoughts on “Autochrome Photographs

  1. I believe I have an autochrome landscape photograph dated 1917 purchased in France. Can you tell me who I can talk to about authentification.

    1. Oh amazing!!! Hm! I don’t really know, are there any museums in your area that display old photography items? If you’re near Toronto you could try reaching out to the ROM possibly?

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