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> Why So Black & White?, We could have had a colorful Jazz Age...
Ian House
post Mar 11 2008, 01:40 AM
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Have you ever wondered what our beloved Jazz Age would have looked like in full living color? Of course, the early years of Technicolor processing arrived just in time to give us a limited color film archive starting in 1917 ... but, for the most part, still photography used in print and elsewhere (portraits, news, landscapes, etc) was still stuck in B&W. It was a very colorless Jazz Age.

I started to wonder -Why? Why did color photography take so long to become a viable technology, an economically feasible solution for publishers in the print media? Was it not in strong demand by the public? At first, one may think that it was a radically new technology ... but when you dig deeper, the history of color photography predated the Jazz Age by about 60 years:

1826: The first practical chemical-based photograph taken by Nicéphore Niépce (France)

1861: The first permanent color photograph taken by James Clerk Maxwell (Scotland)

1935: The introduction of Kodachrome

So, it took 74 years from invention to perfection (and commercial application) during the timeframe of the Industrial Revolution. Let's just say that color photography must have been presented with some incredible technological hurdles to overcome...

_ _ _

However, the Jazz Age could have been documented in color. A Russian photographer, Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky was developing color photography techniques to document Russian life between 1909-1915. His process involved the composite of three separate color filters that were taken in rapid succession and later combined through projected light. The results were stunning and could compete with the best of any modern photography. Below are some examples that are nearly 100 years old including a self-portrait. (the first photo):



circa 1915






1911





circa 1915








At first, it might seem logical that the development of color print photography would occur before the development of color cinema technology ... just as photography itself was developed before cinematography. But, when you think about it, the Technicolor process was simply a more advanced form of Prokudin-Gorsky's Russian photos -projecting light through a multiple filter composite onto a screen. It didn't need to complete the difficult task of transferring that image onto a permanent printed surface.




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This post has been edited by Ian House: Mar 11 2008, 04:25 AM


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Victor C. Brunsw...
post Mar 11 2008, 08:56 AM
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I believe it was some 15-20 years ago or so that many of Prokudin-Gorsky's photographs were published in a book called Photographs for the Tsar
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limden
post Mar 11 2008, 10:48 AM
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Colour photos of the Great War 1914-1918:-

http://www.mediatheque-patrimoine.culture....utochromes.html

Too many just show war-damaged buildings but persist and you will find some gems.

Limden

This post has been edited by limden: Mar 11 2008, 11:07 AM
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Ian House
post Mar 11 2008, 10:50 PM
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QUOTE(limden @ Mar 11 2008, 04:48 AM) *
Colour photos of the Great War 1914-1918:-

http://www.mediatheque-patrimoine.culture....utochromes.html

Too many just show war-damaged buildings but persist and you will find some gems.

Limden



Victor, here is the Amazon link to the book you've mentioned.

Limden, thank you for the link to that color archive; It's a fascinating collection.


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This post has been edited by Ian House: Mar 12 2008, 12:27 AM


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laughland
post Mar 12 2008, 01:34 AM
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This thread reminds me of a Calvin and Hobbs comic I've loved for years...



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Ian House
post Mar 12 2008, 02:23 AM
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QUOTE(laughland @ Mar 11 2008, 07:34 PM) *
This thread reminds me of a Calvin and Hobbs comic I've loved for years...


Ha! PERFECT!

Calvin and Hobbes is my favorite all-time comic strip ... but to be honest, I completely forgot about this particular installment. I guess I had Calvin's query in the back of my mind :-)


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gregoryagogo
post Mar 12 2008, 10:00 PM
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FM Radio too, was held back. There was a war of inventers and patents that totally delayed the FM technology from being developed and used. They had the technology in the 20s and it really didn't get off the ground until the 50s. mad.gif I think greed even played a role.


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gregoryagogo
post Mar 12 2008, 10:02 PM
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Ps. Calvin & Hobbs is my one and only comic strip that I totally got into and read everyone. I used to have allthe books, and still have some...


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Tiffany
post Jul 7 2008, 02:13 PM
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That's a good question. All of the photo's I have are Black and White so this does drive me nuts.
I have to say it would be really cool to see my photo's in color.

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Shangas
post Jul 8 2008, 04:41 AM
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I am amazed that I have not posted in this thread yet! laugh.gif

Why there were so many b/w photos and less colour photos during the first half/quarter of the 20th century, I would think, would boil down to one thing:

Cost.

It was cheaper to take a batch of black and white snapshots over a bunch of coloured ones. Apart from that, perhaps the technology didn't exist yet to provide affordable and reliable colour-photograph cameras to the masses. And those which did exist were probably pretty expensive, to be used only by those who could really afford them, like artists or news-photographers.


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victrolajazz
post Jul 8 2008, 05:01 AM
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Also, it could be very fortunate. I'll admit I'm not very knowledgable about the chemical properties of photography, but isn't it true that black and white is virtually permanent, while color over a period of time tends to fade? The black and white family photos I have of nearly 100 years ago are still clear and crisp. Color photos from as recently as the 50's and 60's are beginning to fade, one wonders what they'll look like in another 30 years (better than I shall at least...)--and forget the horrible washed out "color" of 70's era photos where a sickly greenish or brownish pall hangs over everything--I think that was caused by skimping on silver nitrate which, with the rampant inflation of the time, was very expensive. Again, I'm probably wrong in all my assumptions...

Eddie the Collector
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