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Autochromes: The Bouquet of Lighted Air

RIGHT FROM ITS START, photography was expected to bloom one day with hues that resembled those of the natural world. The medium had been born generating far more visual information than that of painting; there was reason to suppose it could be just as chromatic. Before this palette could be obtained, however, difficult optical and chemical problems had to be solved. Was one to proceed best by the mixing of colored lights (filters), or by means of dyes included on the sensitive plate? How was the process to be developed and how was the result to be fixed so that colors wouldn’t fade? Further still, what were the mechanical advantages that would make the whole package usable and profitable? Beyond that (and affected by all earlier decisions) what would true color photography look like and how would it feel?

Beginning in 1892, and basing their experiments on a great deal of earlier theoretical

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