Autochrome

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by tjaded, Oct 15, 2006.

  1. tjaded

    tjaded Subscriber

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    Hi--
    I just found this site, super cool so far....

    I would guess this forum would be more appropriate than color photo, so here goes. I am fascinated by autochromes and would love to do some for myself. My question is this, does anyone know how to make them? This is something I would very much like to do. Is there a group/person out there that has tried to re-create the process recently? Thanks for any tips/advice.

    Matt
     
  2. Black Dog

    Black Dog Member

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    Ag magazine published a piece on Autochromes several years ago-issue 14 if memory serves correctly. It was written by Martin Reed from Silverprint, so you might want to try contacting them as well.
     
  3. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member

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    Welcome to APUG. Do a search for a mamber by the name of HTMLGuru he is/was attempting to recreate the process.
     
  4. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    According to my contacts at George Eastman House, to date no one has been able to replicate Autochromes, not even the French, using the reconditioned equipment used in the original film production.

    PE
     
  5. DBP

    DBP Member

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    Didn't Polachrome use the same principle?
     
  6. htmlguru4242

    htmlguru4242 Member

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    DBP: Yes, polachrome used a similar principle, though I believe it was rules vertical lines rather than a random screen.

    I've been trying for a while to get this working. Let me tell you right up front that it is quite a trick to get working.

    The first issue arises when coating the screen. It is near impossible to get the dyed starch grains in a monolayer on the plate. It is also basically unknown how the lampblack was applied to the plates. I think that I've figured out the coating, though the lampblack remains a mystery.

    The second and more significant issue is the emulsion that must be employed. Seeing as how Autochrome is a full-color process, a panchromatic (or at least orthopanchromatic) emulsion must be used. (orthopan would be one that is sensitive to all colors up to orange). There are no liquid panchromatic emulsions available as far as I know. I've considered making one, but the manufacture of a panchromatic emulsion is a complex, time-consuming and expensive process. The dyes needed are EXRTREMELY expensive, even though they are only required in small amounts.

    tjaded, PM me if you have questions.

    I'm off to work on some more of this now, in fact.
     
  7. Gatsby1923

    Gatsby1923 Member

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    I sometimes wonder if Holy Water, and a Latin High Mass are required to make an autochrome. I have tried off and on for years with no success

    Dave M.
     
  8. Stephanie Brim

    Stephanie Brim Member

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    It might help.
     
  9. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Dufaycolor and Polacolor used ruled screens. This has been duplicated many times. In fact, I was shown a demo of this at George Eastman House by one of the instructors.

    I have a set of dyes for making the pan emulisons. Making, sensitizing and coating them are the most difficult part. Even using the screen method, I don't expect a speed much over 3.

    PE
     
  10. Jerevan

    Jerevan Subscriber

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    What does the lamp black do? Does serve as a dye, giving colour? Or is it some kind of backing for the plates?
     
  11. tjaded

    tjaded Subscriber

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    It's so amazing to me that so many people consider things from the past as simple or whatnot compared to present day technology. It makes me really happy to see that there are people that want to try and re-create this technology as opposed to just going down and buying film off the shelf. It sort of makes me think about the whole photo world/process and the future. I am finding it troubling that fewer and fewer classes will be offered to teach people about the chemistry of traditional photography. Will the next generation of photographers that want to work in a darkroom only be able to if they can still buy ready made developers and such? As technology "improves" it seems to take away knowledge in some ways. The easier the process becomes, the less the end user has to know about it. I consider myself to have just scratched the surface of photography and find it kind of frustrating that a large portion of my learning will have to remain theoretical until I have the time/money/space to teach myself without the ability to take advantage of the knowledge and experience of someone who has done it. I guess what I am trying to say is that a process like autochrome has been lost to us, but it didn't have to be that way. As technology changes, it shouldn't mean that everything that came before is automatically worse/substandard and should just be forgotten.

    On a side note to all of this, how many of you have seen or own any autochromes? I have only seen reproductions and would like to see some in person. I guess I'll watch eBay? I dunno...
     
  12. Jerevan

    Jerevan Subscriber

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  13. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member

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    I've seen one. Just like Daguerrotypes, reproductions just don't work - the original itself must be seen. Preferrably held in the hand too, but the guards at the exhibition wouldn't let me do that. :sad:

    I've bought a small daguerrotype on ebay just to get a proper look, and been outbid on six Autochromes. :mad:
     
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  15. Gerald Koch

    Gerald Koch Member

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    Actually the lampblack was not in the emulsion per se. It filled in the spaces between the starch grains which were coated on the emulsion. Each starch grain acted like a little colored filter. If there were no filler then the color would be degraded since unfiltered light would reach the emulsion.
     
  16. htmlguru4242

    htmlguru4242 Member

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    I've seen plates and Cibachrome prints from plates.

    I also have a pair of unused plates. I took the emulsion off of one so i could see the screen.
     
  17. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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  18. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    There is also the set from WWI that was on display a while back. The URL was posted here, but I can't locate it offhand.

    If you think of CMYK in digital imaging and current analog products use CMY, then Autochrome was a rough analog of CMYK with the carbon black acting as the "K" image giving better contrast and higher dmax.

    Since this is just an analogy, the comparison is just rough.

    PE
     
  19. Black Dog

    Black Dog Member

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    I've only seen reproductions, but even those blew me away.
     
  20. htmlguru4242

    htmlguru4242 Member

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    The actual plates are even more amazing than the reproductions. When held up to light, they almost glow with a pointallist effect.
     
  21. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    Is it possible to apply the color screen as a permeable layer over an existing panchromatic film? Perhaps a gelatin screen could be stripped from its base and applied to panchromatic film, as color transpariencies were stripped and applied to paper substrates in earlier days of color photography. Or panchromatic emulsion could be stripped and applied to the screen.

    The Nelson-Atkins museum in Kansas City had an exhibit of prints (I believe Cibachrome) from Autochrome images. Even the second generation prints were magnificent.
     
  22. dmr

    dmr Member

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    PE, I think this is the one you mean:

    http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=245

    There are some links on that page too. I find that process (Autochrome) amazing. It's incredibly simple, but produced some brilliant images.

    Edit: This link is more likely the collection you're referring to:

    http://www.worldwaronecolorphotos.com/
     
  23. htmlguru4242

    htmlguru4242 Member

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    Jim, the idea of the layer over the film is a really good one, and it might work. We discussed it earlier, but could not come up with a really good method. The issue seems to be finding the proper dyes for it that wont wash out or interfere with the emulsion. Unless we dont use dyes .....

    Hmmm

    That's a really good idea.

    What could be coated OVER an emulsion that:
    1.) Can be coated in the dark
    2.) Will not interfere with the senstizing dye
    3.) Will not wash out, change color or move during processing
    4.) Will not interfere with the developer or emulsion
    5.) Will be relatively stable

    I'm going to grab a sheet of paper this weekend, and overcoat some gelatine onto it. If that works, there is hope!
     
  24. Photo Engineer

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    Gelatin?

    PE
     
  25. htmlguru4242

    htmlguru4242 Member

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    Yes, PE, I was planning on using gelatin; its just what to put in it that would be dyed that's in question here ...
     
  26. Photo Engineer

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    I would add the anionic dye to gelatin as a solution and mix it with a cationic mordant then at the right proportion to cause minute specks of dye-mordant particles. That is, if I understand you correctly.

    When I worked in image transfer, I worked on a number of dye incorporation methods, and some worked and some did not.

    PE