Two boys gaze at a circus billboard near Bristolville, Ohio, in 1931.
These Beautiful Antique Photos Were Made With Potato Starch
Almost 30 years before Kodachrome, two French brothers invented a way to take color photos. The autochrome process they developed gave the soft, slightly blurred images the feel of an Impressionist painting.
In 1907, the Lumière brothers, Auguste and Louis, introduced the first viable method of color photography. Although color photographs had existed, the process was clumsy and complicated. The key ingredient, the Lumières discovered, was potato starch.
The process, called autochrome, involved covering a glass plate with a thin wash of tiny potato starch grains dyed red, green, and blue, thus creating a filter. A thin layer of emulsion was added over that. When the plate was flipped and exposed to light, the resulting image could be developed into a transparency.
Autochrome was immediately popular in Paris, where it was introduced, and soon spread to the United States. The first natural color photograph to appear in National Geographic magazine was an autochrome