Photochrom

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1890s photochrom print of Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany 00179u unprocessed.jpg
1890s photochrom print of Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany

Photochrom (Fotochrom,Photochrome [Note 1] [2] or the Aäc process) is a process for producing colorized images from black-and-white photographic negatives via the direct photographic transfer of a negative onto lithographic printing plates. The process is a photographic variant of chromolithography (color lithography).

Hand-colouring of photographs Manually applying colour to black-and-white photographs

Hand-colouring refers to any method of manually adding colour to a black-and-white photograph, generally either to heighten the realism of the photograph or for artistic purposes. Hand-colouring is also known as hand painting or overpainting.

Lithography printing process

Lithography is a method of printing originally based on the immiscibility of oil and water. The printing is from a stone or a metal plate with a smooth surface. It was invented in 1796 by German author and actor Alois Senefelder as a cheap method of publishing theatrical works. Lithography can be used to print text or artwork onto paper or other suitable material.

Chromolithography

Chromolithography is a unique method for making multi-colour prints. This type of colour printing stemmed from the process of lithography, and includes all types of lithography that are printed in colour. When chromolithography is used to reproduce photographs, the term photochrome is frequently used. Lithographers sought to find a way to print on flat surfaces with the use of chemicals instead of raised relief or recessed intaglio techniques.

Contents

History

The process was invented in the 1880s by Hans Jakob Schmid (1856–1924), an employee of the Swiss company Orell Gessner Füssli—a printing firm whose history began in the 16th century. [3] Füssli founded the stock company Photochrom Zürich (later Photoglob Zürich AG) as the business vehicle for the commercial exploitation of the process and both Füssli [3] and Photoglob [4] continue to exist today. From the mid-1890s the process was licensed by other companies, including the Detroit Photographic Company in the US (making it the basis of their "phostint" process), [5] and the Photochrom Company of London.

Detroit Publishing Company

The Detroit Publishing Company was an American photographic publishing firm best known for its large assortment of photochrom color postcards.

Amongst the first commercial photographers to employ the technique were French photographer Félix Bonfils, British photographer Francis Frith and American photographer William Henry Jackson, all active in the 1880s. [6] The photochrom process was most popular in the 1890s, when true color photography was first developed but was still commercially impractical.

Félix Bonfils French commercial photographer active in the middle east (1831-1885)

Félix Adrien Bonfils was a French photographer and writer who was active in the Middle East. He was one of the first commercial photographers to produce images of the Middle East on a large scale and amongst the first to employ a new method of colour photography, developed in 1880.

Francis Frith English photographer

Francis Frith was an English photographer of the Middle East and many towns in the United Kingdom. Frith was born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, attending Quaker schools at Ackworth and Quaker Camp Hill in Birmingham, before he started in the cutlery business. He suffered a nervous breakdown in 1843, recuperating over the next two years. In 1850 he started a photographic studio in Liverpool, known as Frith & Hayward. A successful grocer, and later, printer, Frith fostered an interest in photography, becoming a founding member of the Liverpool Photographic Society in 1853. Frith sold his companies in 1855 in order to dedicate himself entirely to photography. He journeyed to the Middle East on three occasions, the first of which was a trip to Egypt in 1856 with very large cameras. He used the collodion process, a major technical achievement in hot and dusty conditions.

William Henry Jackson American photographer and painter

William Henry Jackson was an American painter, Civil War veteran, geological survey photographer and an explorer famous for his images of the American West. He was a great-great nephew of Samuel Wilson, the progenitor of America's national symbol Uncle Sam.

In 1898 the US Congress passed the Private Mailing Card Act which let private publishers produce postcards. These could be mailed for one cent each, while the letter rate was two cents. Publishers created thousands of photochrom prints, usually of cities or landscapes, and sold them as postcards. In this format, photochrom reproductions became popular. [7] The Detroit Photographic Company reportedly produced as many as seven million photochrom prints in some years, and ten to thirty thousand different views were offered.

After World War I, which ended the craze for collecting photochrom postcards, the chief use of the process was for posters and art reproductions. The last photochrom printer operated up to 1970. [8]

Process

A tablet of lithographic limestone called a "litho stone" was coated with a light-sensitive surface composed of a thin layer of purified bitumen dissolved in benzene. A reversed halftone negative was then pressed against the coating and exposed to daylight (ten to thirty minutes in summer, up to several hours in winter), causing the bitumen to harden in proportion to the amount of light passing through each portion of the negative. Then a solvent such as turpentine was applied to remove the unhardened bitumen and retouch the tonal scale, strengthening or softening tones as required. Thus the image became imprinted on the stone in bitumen. Each tint was applied using a separate stone that bore the appropriate retouched image. The finished print was produced using at least six, but more commonly ten to fifteen, tint stones. [8]

Lithographic limestone

Lithographic limestone is hard limestone that is sufficiently fine-grained, homogeneous and defect free to be used for lithography.

Benzene Organic chemical compound

Benzene is an organic chemical compound with the chemical formula C6H6. The benzene molecule is composed of six carbon atoms joined in a ring with one hydrogen atom attached to each. As it contains only carbon and hydrogen atoms, benzene is classed as a hydrocarbon.

Halftone printing process

Halftone is the reprographic technique that simulates continuous-tone imagery through the use of dots, varying either in size or in spacing, thus generating a gradient-like effect. "Halftone" can also be used to refer specifically to the image that is produced by this process.

Notes

  1. "Photochrom" (English: /ˈftəˌkrm, -t-/ [1] ) is the spelling used by the Library of Congress, for historical reasons, in its classification and description of its collection of such images. Variants of the spelling exist, both in English and in German. "Photochrome" is the English spelling used in some contexts, even by the Library of Congress in a few of its image descriptions. "Fotochrom" is the German spelling used today by Orell Füssli, the Swiss company that invented the process.

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References

  1. "Photochrom". Oxford Dictionaries . Oxford University Press . Retrieved 2016-01-22.
  2. "Photochrome (1939-Present)". University of Vermont. Archived from the original on 2008-07-24.
  3. 1 2 "Orell Füssli Company History (in German)". Ofv.ch. Retrieved 2012-06-16.
  4. "History / Erfolgsgeschichte" (in German). Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  5. "MetropoPostcard Guide to Printing Techniques 5". metropostcard.com.
  6. Farbige Reise, Paris bibliothèques, 2009, p. 41
  7. Marc Walter & Sabine Arque, “The World in 1900”, Thames & Hudson, 2007 contains about 300 well-reproduced photochromes from around the world.
  8. 1 2 Hannavy, John (2008). Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-century Photography. CRC Press. pp. 1078–1079. ISBN   0-415-97235-3.