Color Photography in the 19th Century and Early 20th Century: Sciences, Technologies, Empires

The purpose of this working group is to propel a rising field of research; color photography in the 19th and early 20th century in order to reconfigure, expand, and problematize its role in the history of the discipline and in the historical contexts out of which it emerged. Presentations within this working group center on the material and epistemological connections between color technologies, empires, and visuality, as well as the interdisciplinary ties between photography, other media, and neighboring disciplines.

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Participants at Consortium activities will treat each other with respect and consideration to create a collegial, inclusive, and professional environment that is free from any form of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.

Participants will avoid any inappropriate actions or statements based on individual characteristics such as age, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, nationality, political affiliation, ability status, educational background, or any other characteristic protected by law. Disruptive or harassing behavior of any kind will not be tolerated. Harassment includes but is not limited to inappropriate or intimidating behavior and language, unwelcome jokes or comments, unwanted touching or attention, offensive images, photography without permission, and stalking.

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Upcoming Meetings

  • Tuesday, April 18, 2023 11:00 am to 12:30 pm EDT


  • Tuesday, May 16, 2023 11:00 am to 12:30 pm EDT


Past Meetings

  • March 21, 2023

    Illuminating Fashion: the colour of clothes in Autochromes 1907-1930
    Presenter: Cally Blackman (Senior Lecturer, Central Saint Martins, UAL, London)
    This presentation addresses Cally Blackman's book which will examine fashion between 1907-1930 through the lens of the autochrome as a robust register of colour. A technological advance, the autochrome links photography with fashion, often upheld as a metaphor for modernity, and both
    were integral in mediating the influence of colour on commerce and consumer culture at this period.
    (Published by Thames & Hudson early 2024).
    Reading Material, attached below:
    - Cally Blackman. Costume Journal, vol.48, no.2, 2014, "Colouring the Claddagh: a distorted  view?"
    - Cally Blackman. Costume Journal, vol.56, no.1, 2022, "The Colour of Fashion at the Salon du Goût Français: a virtual exhibition of French luxury commodities, 1921-1923."
    Targeted Audience: French Studies, Fashion Studies, Curators, Designers,
    Cally Blackman is a fashion historian with over twenty years experience of teaching and writing, having published several books on the subject: 100 Years of Fashion Illustration 2007, 100 Years of Menswear 2009, 100 Years of Fashion 2012, A Portrait of Fashion 2015 and Fashion Central 2019. She has been researching the representation of fashion and clothing through autochromes for much of this time, its importance to the field being that this process affords a unique and robust register of colour during the period it was in use that is more reliable than other types of visual media, including printed material and even painting, and therefore is extremely useful as evidence of the colour of clothes in high fashion and the everyday dress of ordinary people. She has given several presentations on this topic at international conferences, including: in 2014 Mode et Guerre Europe 1914-18: fashion, dress and society during World War 1 at L'Institute Francais de la Mode, Paris; in 2015 Fashion at 84th Anglo-American Conference of Historians, Institute of Historical Research, University of London; in 2018 Der Wereld in Kleur: kleurenfotographie voor 1918, Allard Pierson Museum Amsterdam; in 2021 Colour Fever, V&A, London.
    Her forthcoming book is the first to use the autochrome as a medium for viewing the history of fashion and will include approx. 350 examples of autochromes and complimentary images, and 40,000 words of text and captions. The autochromes, some of which have not been published before, have been sourced from museum, archive and private collections all over the world. In addition, Cally is acting as co-curator and consultant on a forthcoming exhibition, Les Couleurs de la Mode, at the Palais Galliera, Paris, of autochromes from the Salon du Gout Francais archive from June 2023-March 2024.

  • February 21, 2023

    Hello everyone,
    Thank you all for your interest in this group. A special hello to all new members!

    Janine & Hanin are taking February off in order to update the group definition, launch some projects in relation to color, and do some internal work on the future of this wonderful platform.
    We will be reconvening in March with an exciting talk (more infos soon) that you will not want to miss, and we have plenty of thrilling presentations lined up for you this year!
    Please feel free to reach out to us for any reason you like (present your research, pitch an idea, ask a questione, communicate your CfP etc.) via the CHSTM, by clicking on "Contact Group Conveners" and we will get back to you.
    Keep your eye on our newsletter, published twice a month!
    Best wishes from Hanin & Janine

  • January 17, 2023

    Whether Mechanical Mimesis: A Sensitometric look at Colour Photography in the 19th century.
    Presenter: Rahul Sharma
    This presentation aims to be a provocation for theoretical discussion on the notion of mimesis and referentiality in colour photography in the 19th century. To this end, I will present a brief summary of constraints colour reproduction faced in the 19th century (and still faces today) from a colour science and sensitometric perspective. To do so, I will use examples like Photochrom (Aäc) process, and Maxwell’s Tartan Ribbon, and compare them with hand painted photographs.
    Here, Photochrom is a colour photolithographic process that could generate colour prints from single black and white negatives. Maxwell’s Tartan Ribbon was a demonstration carried out in 1861, wherein a tartan ribbon was photographed in three monochrome plates using Red, Green, and Blue colour filters; and the resultant positive images projected together to create the world’s first three colour image.
    I will argue that colour in photographs as a mechanistic process, approached (and still does) absolute fidelity asymptotically. This is due to technical constraints still being resolved to date.  Rather, any semblance of colouristic ‘reality’ in most 19th century photographs was a result of considerable manipulation by the practitioner. I will further contend that the extent of the manipulation is such that there exist close parallels between three colour prints, and hand-painted photographs.
    Rahul Sharma is a graduate of the program in photograph conservation from University of Amsterdam, and the conservation program of the National Museum Institute, New Delhi, specializing in technical imaging. In addition to his conservation practice, Sharma is a practicing darkroom printer.
    Suggested readings:

    Target audience: Newcomers to the research on color photography circa 1900, PhD students, curators, conservators, established researchers.

  • December 20, 2022

    HOLIDAY SPECIAL: Focus Sessions, Q&A, & Social Gathering!
    In order to kiss 2022 goodbye and to go into the new year filled with optimism, joy, and color photography inspiration, Janine and Hanin have prepared December special just for you! This informal session will be organized as follows:
    1. Janine Freeston: "Women Making Color Photographs" (15 + minutes)
    Who are the women who produced color photographs? How did they contribute to the nascent trichromatic color photography processes at the turn of the last century? Are there more of them languishing in archives who have yet to be fully appreciated and how scholars uncover it?  As the history of photography continues to evolve in its appreciation of women photographers, the substantial significance that women contributors made to color photography requires consolidation, such as Angelina Acland, Agnes Warburg, Violet Blaiklock, Marjory T. Hardcastle and Olive Edis to name a few. This talk highlights women working on unresolved color processes that demanded more technical, scientific and methodological prowess than that required from their counterparts working in monochrome. For example, some processes lacked chromatic fidelity, and yet a cohort of experimenting highly skilled photographers, a significant number of whom were women, persevered to offer numerous nuanced improvements that had evolved through their practical experiences or supplied work that supported the commercial potential that color photography presented.
    I hope to appeal to members of this working group to interrogate their own resources and work together in amassing geographical, technical and biographical findings from the locations they are familiar with to provide a cogent and geographically balanced historical perspective highlighting the means and methods of contributions made by women beyond the exhibition of images. 
    2. Looking backwards/looking forwards: 2023 schedule aka what we have in store for you! (10 minutes)
    3. For you
    The rest of our time together during this session will be spent socializing, asking questions, discussing in break-out rooms in a relaxed setting whilst Hanin tells her jokes. Why? Because we would love to get to know each and every one of you better and continue building our color photography community. This has been an beautiful journey for us and we are thrilled to be heading to 2023 together with you. Feel free to invite your friends and colleagues to join. Pets are also welcome. We love seeing them on camera!
    Target audience: Gender Studies, History of Science, History of Physics, Group Members, Interested Parties.

  • November 15, 2022

    Colour Empires of Prokudin-Gorskii
    Presenter: Nadezhda Stanulevich
    During the presentation, we will consider facts about colour photographs by Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii and his activity in Russia and France. We will look at the scientific career of a famous photographer, as well as questions around the identification of Prokudin-Gorskii's photographs, concreting types of photographic materials like negatives and slides, prints, postcards, etc. We will reference different Russian State and private collections. Moving to the colour prints of the French period will allow you to look at the work of the photographer and his family more than through the prism of Russian imperialism.
    Nadezhda Stanulevich is a photo historian. She defended her Candidate of Science dissertation entitled Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii and his contribution to the development of colour photography in 2019. Most of her peer-reviewed articles focus on the history of photographic techniques, cultural aspects of photography at the beginning of the 20th century or museums photo collections. Since September 2019, she has been a Researcher at Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (the Kunstkamera).
    Target audience: Russian Studies scholars & enthusiasts, French studies scholars & enthusiasts, three-color photography scholars, curators.
    The resource made available for you is Nadezhda Stanulevich's published article "Prokudin-Gorskii’s technique of colour photography: colour separation, additive projection and pigment printing".

  • October 18, 2022

    **Note Special Time**
    Tuesday, October 18, 2022 2:30 pm to 4:00 pm BST
    Presenters: Catlin Langford 
    Talk Title: Autochromes and Representation
    Please refer to the resource section for reading material. 
    In this session, we will consider ideas around autochromes and representation. We will look at means of representing the unique materiality of autochromes, as well as questions around the representation and exploration of the process through the lens of colonialism, imperialism, and ethics, reflecting on accessibility, exposure, interpretation, and learning. We will initially reference the V&A’s collection of over 2,500 autochromes, noting recent activities to explore, catalogue, publish and exhibit this collection, before moving to the collections of the National Geographic and Albert- Kahn Museum, the latter having recently reopened in Paris following extensive renovations.    
    Target audience: Newcomers to the research on color photography circa 1900, PhD students, curators, conservators, established researchers.
    Reading material:
    Doug Peterson, ‘Preserving the National Geographic Society’s Autochrome Collection’, Digital Transitions Heritage, 11 March 2019,
    Kjetil Ansgar Jakobsen and Milena Nikolova, ‘The Kahn Archive: A Visual Memory That Is Truly Comopolitan?’, in Cosmopolitics of the Camera: Albert Kahn’s Archives of the Planet, Intellect, 2020 (pages: 155-77)
    Suggested further reading:
    Brian Hochman, Savage Preservation: The Ethnographic Origins of Modern Media Technology, University of Minnesota Press, 2014.
    Please note that the reading material "Colour Mania" written by Catlin Langford has been posted for the purpose of study and should not be transmitted to third parties without the consent of the author.

  • September 20, 2022

    Researching Color Photography in the 19th & early 20th Century Today: Reflections on History, Science, and Materiality
    Presenters: Janine Freeston + Dr. Hanin Hannouch 
    Please refer to the resource section for reading material. 
    The co-conveners of this working group Janine Freeston and Dr. Hanin Hannouch introduce color photography circa 1900 as a nascent field of inquiry. Moreover, they will present key research questions about it and avenues to consider when delving into the numerous technologies which the term “color photography” encompasses, as well as the historical complexity out of which these processes emerged. They will also address the interrelatedness of color photographies and other media that were necessary to the creation and dissemination of knowledge about them during European imperialism. 
    For example, can we really speak of “the first” color photograph and how is this fraught notion entangled with imperialism? How does the lack of chemical uniformity challenge the international history of certain color processes? How to formalize the relationship between color photography and other scientific disciplines and practices such as anthropology, spectrography, medicine etc.? How to integrate the research of scientists in the “Global South” about color photography, as well as the position of women and other marginalized groups? What role do the technical objects of color photography play in museum collections and in broadening the history of the medium?

    Target audience: Newcomers to the research on color photography circa 1900, PhD students, curators, conservators, established researchers.

Group Conveners

  • Janine's picture

    Janine Freeston

    Free-lance researcher, cataloger and digitizer of photographic archives, author, consultant, co-curator of photographic exhibitions, tutor and associate lecturer. She specializes in early color photography and photographic processes, currently researching the associated technological and litigious aspects of trichromatic technology up to the 1930s. Her completed thesis Colour photography in Britain, 1906-1932: Exhibition, Technology, Commerce and Culture - the Dynamics that Shaped its Emergence, will shortly be available. Janine is currently co-authoring an undergraduate study guide to understanding and applying research methods for photography in cultural studies and coordinates annual research symposiums on behalf of the Royal Photographic Society Historical Group with Andrew Robinson, Senior Lecturer in Photography at Sheffield Hallam University for academics, writers and collectors at any stage of their research.


  • Hanin's picture

    Hanin Hannouch

    Dr. Hanin Hannouch (she/her) is Curator for Analog and Digital Media at the Weltmuseum Wien, where she is responsible for the collections of photography, film, and sound. Since November 2022, she has been a member of the advisory board of the European Society for the History of Photography (ESHPh). She is the editor of the first volume on interferential color photography titled "Gabriel Lippmann's Colour Photography: Science, Media, Museums" (Amsterdam University Press, 2022) and has guest-curated the exhibition "Slow Colour Photography" about it at Preus Museum: National Museum of Photography (Norway). Moreover, she is the guest-editor of the journal PhotoResearcher Nr. 37 "Three-Colour Photography around 1900: Technologies, Expeditions, Empires". Dr. Hannouch was a Post-Doc, among others, at the Ethnologisches Museum - Berlin State Museums (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation) and at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz / Max-Planck-Institut where she investigated colonial color photography in the 19th and early 20th century. She earned her PhD from IMT Lucca, Scuola Alti Studi (2017) with a dissertation on the history of film and art in the Soviet Union titled "Art History as Janus: Sergei Eisenstein on the Visual Arts," after completing an international Masters degree in art history and museology (IMKM) at the Ecole du Louvre in Paris and the University of Heidelberg in Germany (2014), as well as another Masters (2012) and a Bachelors focusing on European modern art at the Université Saint-Esprit de Kaslik (Lebanon). She speaks Arabic, French, English, German, Italian fluently and continues to learn Russian. Currently, she is writing her monograph on the history of color photography in Imperial Germany, as well as another book on the history of the photography collection at the Weltmuseum Wien.


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