This picture was recently bought by the Library of Congress. Here is the description:
The Emir of Bukhara, Alim Khan (1880-1944), poses solemnly for his portrait, taken in 1911 shortly after his accession. As ruler of an autonomous city-state in Islamic Central Asia, the Emir presided over the internal affairs of his emirate as absolute monarch, although since the mid-1800s Bukhara had been a vassal state of the Russian Empire. With the establishment of Soviet power in Bukhara in 1920, the Emir fled to Afghanistan where he died in 1944.
It’s a great picture, showing a glimpse of a world long gone and yet tantalizingly close. What caught my eye though was its amazing color…for being taken in 1911. Well no, that’s not the truly amazing part, the amazing part is that it hasn’t been colorized!
That photo is created unaltered from the original plates, plates that were completely black and white. As this link explains, it actually is a combination of three separate photographs, each taken with a different filter, and then the plates are put into a special projector (again with the proper filters) to project the final image in glorious color. Of course there were no color prints back then, so the photos were displayed as the first colored slide show. The Library of Congress has bought the collection to give the pictures everlasting posterity. It is really a beauty to behold.
Speaking of early photography, its being hypothesized that a painter used it 200 years before the invention of the camera.
Roberta Lapucci said the Italian artist [Caravaggio] – noted for his chiaroscuro (light and shadow) paintings – used “techniques that are the basis of photography”. It was already known he worked in a “darkroom” and illuminated his models through a hole in the ceiling. But Ms Lapucci believes the image was also projected on a canvas and “fixed”. Light-sensitive substances applied to the canvas would have “fixed” the image for around 30 minutes, allowing Caravaggio to paint the image with broad strokes using white lead mixed with chemicals and minerals that were visible in the dark.
If this proves correct, it’s another true work of brilliance. My only question is why he didn’t share his techniques widely.
Back in the 21st century, computers are as crucial as lenses, whether it’s outright fantasy: