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Photo Museum Ireland

Colour Mania Photographing the World in Autochrome

Colour Mania Photographing the World in Autochrome

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Colour Mania Photographing the World in Autochrome by  Catlin Langford

Exquisite yet too fragile to exhibit, one of the world’s greatest collections of autochromes – a pioneering colour photography process – is presented to a wide audience for the first time.

‘Whoever has tried it will not want to do anything else.’ So declared French photographer Albert Londe after first using the autochrome, the revolutionary colour photography process released in 1907. Invented by the Lumière brothers, the autochrome was quickly embraced by all quarters of the photographic community, not least the American Pictorialist Alfred Stieglitz, who proclaimed, ‘soon the world will be color-mad’. Such is their fragility, however, that autochromes cannot be exhibited. Drawing on the Victoria and Albert Museum’s world-class collection, Colour Mania thus offers a rare opportunity to experience the rich variety of autochromes produced in the two or so decades in which the process had photographers entranced.

The book begins by considering the reception, application and legacy of the autochrome in the wider context of the development of colour photography. Four themed chapters then explore the principal subject areas in which autochromists practised – portraiture, gardens, still life and travel – focusing on the life and work of seven key individuals, including Alvin Langdon Coburn and Helen Messinger Murdoch. A final section looks at the challenges posed by the conservation of such historically important yet inherently fragile objects. Featuring specially commissioned photography and informed by the latest research and scholarship, Colour Mania takes the reader back in time to share in the initial wonder and excitement of what we now take for granted: photographing the world in colour.

About the Author

Catlin Langford is a curator currently based in Naarm/Melbourne. She was the inaugural Curatorial Fellow in Photography, supported by The Bern Schwartz Family Foundation at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
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