Autochrome Lumière, The World’s Earliest Color Film

Way before Kodachrome, and the now-classic Paul Simon song, there was Autochrome Lumière.

Autochrome Lumière is a photographic process that revolutionized color photography in the early 20th century. It was invented by French brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière, who were already famous for their contributions to the film industry.

Before Autochrome Lumière, color photography was a difficult and cumbersome process that required multiple exposures with different filters and dyes. The Lumière brothers wanted to simplify this process and make color photography more accessible to the masses.

The brothers began experimenting with different methods of capturing color images, and in 1903, they developed Autochrome Lumière. This process used a glass plate coated with a layer of microscopic grains of potato starch, dyed red, green, and blue-violet. The grains acted as tiny color filters, allowing only certain colors of light to pass through to the photographic emulsion underneath.

When exposed to light, the emulsion recorded the colors that passed through the starch grains, creating a full-color image. The resulting images had a soft, dreamy quality, with a palette of muted pastels.

Autochrome Lumière was an instant success and was quickly adopted by photographers around the world. It was used to capture everything from portraits to landscapes to still lifes. Famous photographers like Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, and Paul Outerbridge all used the process to create beautiful and groundbreaking color images.

The popularity of Autochrome Lumière also led to the development of new color photography processes, such as Kodachrome and Agfacolor. These processes built upon the foundations laid by the Lumière brothers and continued to push the boundaries of what was possible with color photography.

Autochrome Lumière had a profound influence on the art and science of photography. It allowed photographers to capture the world in vivid color, creating images that were more lifelike and emotionally resonant. It also paved the way for the development of modern color photography, which is now ubiquitous in our daily lives.

In conclusion, the Lumière brothers’ invention of Autochrome Lumière was a groundbreaking achievement in the history of photography. It revolutionized the way we capture and experience the world around us, and its influence can still be felt in the world of photography today.