44 Old Color Photos Made With Autochrome That Remain Stunning A Century Later

Published March 14, 2018
Updated September 27, 2018

These old color photos courtesy of the autochrome process may date to the early 1900s, but they don't look it one bit.

Autochrome Of Christina O'Gorman
Old Color Photos Girl In Kimono
Autochrome Of Girl With Doll
Chess Match
44 Old Color Photos Made With Autochrome That Remain Stunning A Century Later
View Gallery

Long before digital photos and even Kodachrome color film, the Autochrome process helped bring color to the world of photography. Patented by brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière of France in 1907, Autochrome was history's first commercially successful color photography process.

Even today, it's hard to believe your eyes when you see Autochromes taken more than a century ago. These old color photos just look so... alive.

The complicated, revolutionary process responsible for these images involved glass plates, soot, and even potato starch. In short, light passed through tiny grains of potato starch that had been dyed in various colors in order to impart those colors onto the image.

And although this process was effective, it was very slow. Long exposure times meant subjects needed to stay very still in order to prevent blurring. But even with some blur, the effect was marvelous.

The softness of motion paired with the subtle palettes made these old color photos resemble paintings. Aside from the aesthetic benefits, Autochrome images allowed photojournalists and documentarians to explore new realms of realism.

In the words of Adrian Coakley, photo editor for National Geographic, "We often think of images from the early 1900s as being exclusively in black and white ... with autochrome, you're seeing those images in a way you wouldn't imagine them. It's like a look at history in color."

Nevertheless, the popularity of Autochrome lasted only about 30 years until Kodachrome was popularized. The new film paired with a 35mm camera was lighter to travel with and much easier to use.

However, some photographers were slow to abandon Autochrome simply because they didn't want to lose the misty beauty that it provided.

See some of the most stunning Autochrome images as well as some other of history's earliest color photos in the gallery above.


After this look at old color photos taken using Autochrome, see some of the most incredible images of World War 2 in color. Then, check out these popular interesting photos from all around the world.

Erin Kelly
Erin Kelly is a freelance writer, artist and video editor that splits her time between the humid Midwest and the dusty corners of her mind.
Close Pop-in
Like History Uncovered On Facebook

Get The Most Interesting Stories From History In Your Feed