Push the button. Peek in the box. Voilà! Behold one of the first available forms of color photography: autochrome.
The photography world gained momentum in color photography in the early 1900s using a starchy crop, the common potato. The autochrome process produced images using glass plates spread with a thin film of dyed potato starch -- red/orange, violet and green -- and sealed with a tacky varnish. Once prepared, the plates were fitted into a camera and the shutter opened enabling light to pass through the diaphanous grains, forming an image that was subsequently developed into a positive transparency. The process produced a radiant color picture that could be viewed when held against light. The photographs had an ethereal quality resembling pointillist-style paintings, a result of the potato particles. Compared to today's split-second camera snap, autochrome images had exposure times of up to 60 seconds requiring subjects to remain still oftentimes unveiling majestic-looking photographs.
This autochrome photograph above, "Group of Female Nudes" (c.1910 Louis Amédée Mante & Edmond Goldschmidt), is one of 150 photographs stretching methods, years and style on display at UNC's Ackland Art Museum. "PhotoVision: Selections of a Decade of Collecting" reveals a collection of photographs the museum acquired over the course of the past 10 years. The exhibit, which can be seen through January 4th, is part of the Click! Triangle Photography Festival which runs this month throughout the triangle -- Chapel Hill, Durham, Hillsborough and Raleigh. The festival provides a forum for exhibits along with locations for photographers to discuss and feature their work.
(photographs taken at the University of North Carolina Ackland Art Museum, PhotoVision: Selections from a Decade of Collecting, in Chapel Hill)