The First Color Photographs


James Clerk Maxwell didn't invent the earliest color photograph, but he invented the first that didn't fade into black and white when exposed to light.

Until James Clerk Maxwell developed the three-color method (which we've all absorbed since our earliest school days - all colors are based on combinations of red, green and blue light), color photographs were barely more permanent than memory, automatically reverting to Instagrammatic nostalgia.

Even Maxwell's timeless Tartan feels more like a Monet than a Man Ray, with shades leaping across the page like a quickly descending fog.

Or perhaps it's just a photo, after all. The past never quite seems photo-realistic, and perhaps it's unfair of us to try and make it so.

This is 1861. It seems strange that none are alive to challenge this basic fact.

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2 Responses to “ The First Color Photographs ”

  1. Jill Broderick2 May 2012 at 07:32

    Wow, I had no idea color photography was that old.  Thanks for this - very enlightening!

  2. theoncominghope2 May 2012 at 07:48

    Glad you enjoyed it!


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