National Geographic Autochromes On Display in New York

Granted my job is photography at National Geographic, so it is a given that I am fascinated by the medium, but autochromes

are among my favorites. They’re extremely rare, as they were only made for a limited time, and this photography method has a real presence and character. It is almost a hybrid of a painting and photography. A new exhibit from the National Geographic Image Collection, which opened yesterday at the Steven Kasher Gallery in New York, displays autochromes that have never before been publicly viewed (and some have rarely been seen even by the staff!). The show runs through through July 10.

Autochrome Lumière was an early color process that involved glass plates coated with dyed potato starch. In July 1914, they were the first natural color photographs to appear in National Geographic. They offer a fascinating look at history, and it is fun to see a process that was so simple compared to today’s digital cameras. (In fact, the image sensors in digital cameras today use a Bayer filter, which is in many ways works like the dyed starch grains in autochrome plates.) I love that you can literally see the pigmented grains of potato in the photos, and the photos themselves are a wonderful glimpse at the early parts of the last century–around the world. In good National Geographic form, the photos are from all over the globe.

–Taylor Kennedy, National Geographic Image Collection

[Steven Kasher Gallery]

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