© Alvin Langdon Coburn, ca. 1909, Early color photos of Mark Twain
These are rare photos of Mark Twain in color (early Autochrome).
Autochrome is an additive color “mosaic screen plate” process. The medium consists of a glass plate coated on one side with a random mosaic of microscopic grains of potato starch dyed red-orange, green, and blue-violet (an unusual but functional variant of the standard red, green, and blue additive colors) which act as color filters.
Lampblack fills the spaces between grains, and a black-and-white panchromatic silver halide emulsion is coated on top of the filter layer. Unlike ordinary black-and-white plates, the Autochrome was loaded into the camera with the bare glass side facing the lens, so that the light passed through the mosaic filter layer before reaching the emulsion. The use of an additional special orange-yellow filter in the camera was required, to block ultraviolet light and restrain the effects of violet and blue light, parts of the spectrum to which the emulsion was overly sensitive.
Because of the light loss due to all the filtering, Autochrome plates required much longer exposures than black-and-white plates and films, which meant that a tripod or other stand had to be used and that it was not practical to photograph moving subjects. (read more)
Read an interesting article about Twain here:
Mark Twain: Celebrity photography’s first superstar was also one of its most outspoken criticse
"The piece of glass it (the photo) prints on is well named a ‘negative’ - a contradiction - a misrepresentation - a falsehood. I speak feeling of this matter, because by turns the instrument has represented me to be a lunatic, a Solomon, a missionary, a burglar and an abject idiot, and I am neither.”
(Letter from Mark Twain to the Sacramento Daily Union, July 1, 1866)
Find more early autochrome pictures photographed by Helen Messinger Murdoch, one of the earliest colour photographers and one of the first female aviators, here.
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