Lumiére Brothers Trichrome
Lumiere Trichrome

Attempts at Googling information on the photographic process behind this image produced decidedly mixed results. The expression "trichrome" gets used in describing a variety of early three color photographic processes. The best description I could find, and one which perfectly describes the flaws in this particular image, is reprinted below.

"The Lumiéres had been interested in color photography for years. In the 1890s they had experimented with Professor Gabriel Lippmann's interference heliochromy process (footnote: Lippmann won the Nobel prize for physics in 1908 for this photographic process , the only 'photographic' Nobel prize ever won.) This was a beautifully elegant solution to the problem of how to produce color photographic images but unfortunately it needed rather long exposures (portraiture would simply not have been possible).

In the 1900 Paris Exposition they exhibited examples of another process they had been working on in the 1890s, their 'bichromated glue' color process, also called trichromes. This subtractive color process used three superimposed layers dyed either magenta, cyan or yellow. The results were stunning, 'characterized by a richness of coloring and luminosity that far exceeded all previous work' (E J Wall, 'The History of Three Color Photography') but again the exposure time meant that only still lifes, landscapes and similar static subjects could be photographed. It also necessitated three separation glass-plate negatives to make the positives.

Examples of this process can occasionally be found today but are often in less than perfect condition. This is usually the result of differential expansion; the glue layers expand or contract in response to changes in atmospheric humidity, whereas the glass support does not. This produces stresses that can lift the emulsion from the glass or even cause the layers to separate and tear."

The above excerpt is reprinted by permission of iPhotoCentral.

I also found, while searching Google, a photographic journal from 1907. It references a new form of photography - color. The author describes how photographers will have to learn the parameters of this "new" form of art, and how some marginal results have been produced by combining brilliant flowers with brass bowls in front of ugly studio backdrops. If I didn't know any better, I would say he was describing this very image. In typical fashion, I have been unable to find the reference a second time.

Another lingering question about Lumiére trichromes is whether the process was ever sold commercially.

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