Saturday, December 6, 2008

Autochrome Magic

Charles Corbet, Melancolia - 1910

This is really not the kind of thing I imagined would interest me overly. People of the Victorian era don't call to me figuratively (or actually - I'm happy to say!). And yet, on going to this photo archive of three Belgian early colour photo experimenters, I was positively carried away. Never mind that these old pics are in colour - which lends them a modern resonance I couldn't have imagined. But they are beautifully composed. Like next-wave Impressionism.

Thanks to Sally Jane for posting on this topic.

Even if this isn't your thing you should give it 3 minutes. And if you're not sucked in, I'd really like to know about it.

PS: You must enlarge this photo for full satisfaction.


  1. just like you, i would not ordinarily give this much (any) time, but the image totally grabbed me. off to look at the archive.

  2. WOW, I love that picture K!!

    Hope you're having a nice weekend.


  3. I *always* give things like this time, because photography stirs my soul. This image stirred me. Thanks, K.

  4. What astounds me about this kind of material is how current it appears. This picture could have been taken at any time in the past century. The gulf of time that separates us from the people taking these pictures is wider than the cultural differences. we speak the same languages now, we would recognize many of the same cultural taboos and practices. It would not be hard for us to live in these times.

    Yet, most of day-to-day living was not that far from iron or even stone age technology. They cooked over fires they built from wood or coal, they used meat and foods stored without refrigeration, and medicine and religion were different halves of the same whole.

    Thanks for the moment of wonder. I really enjoyed it.


  5. editor: They just call out!

    Seeker: I hope you are too. And isn't that photo miraculous?

    E: I'm so glad it resonated. I was blown away...

    D.: I know. You are so right! I was thinking yesterday, as I was freezing my ass off in the minus 10 before windchill weather, can you imagine how hideous Canada would have been before central heating. The people in the photos understood deprivation and hardship in a way I never could...

    Janet and Tessa: So glad you like them...

  6. That is such a beautiful photo...

  7. I was so pleased to see you showing this image! I've been a keen collector of pre-1920s autochromes for a couple of years, and I'm always stunned by how contemporary they look. The aesthetic is so restrained and elegant, and they offer an intriguing glimpse of history that we only usually see in greyscale. I have some extraordinary ones from France in 1916.

    And all made from a potato! I just love that!

    I keep thinking I fancy doing some teaching in Canada, then I remember the cold and feel very very afraid.

  8. It has a kind of spooky quality - like you might get literally sucked in there and trapped for all eternity if you keep looking...

  9. I'm well sucked in and I can't get out.

  10. Jenn: Isn't it?

    Isabella: Thanks for your comment. I love that it was done with a potato! And, yes, be very afraid of Canada in the winter. But don't let it stop you from joining us!

    Skye: Every time I've looked at this photo since I've read your comment, I feel absorbed and like I can't turn away. It's freaking me out!

    Songy: See above!

    Dr. M: It's like something you'd find on one of your thrift trips!