Photochrome prints

While working on my pages about the history of printing, I stumbled across the invention of the ‘Aäc process’ around 1880. This technique was used to create photochrom or photochrome prints, a type of color prints that were very popular between 1890 and 1910. The photochrome process was mainly used to print postcards. I find these old cards oddly compelling. They depict a world that has long gone in colors that are realistic but at the same time slightly ‘off’.

Milk sellers with a dog cart near Brussels, Belgium

A postcard of a dog cart near Brussels, Belgium - created using the Aac processTwo windmills in Holland

An old postcard of a typical landscape with mills in HollandCastle Neuschwanstein in Beiern, Germany

A postscard of the castle of Neuschwanstein, printed using the Aac processStalheim Hotel in Hardanger Fjord, Norway

A postscard showing the Stalheim hotel in Norway, printed using the Aac processThe Statue of Liberty in New York, USA

An old postcard showing the Statuse of Liberty in New York, USAA hotel in Bernese Oberland, Switzerland

An old postcard from Switzerland, created using the Aac processThe ‘Exposition Universelle 1900’ in Paris, France

An old postcard of the Palais des Nations in Paris, France Illecillewaet Glacier in the Selkirk Mountains, Canada

An old postcard of a crevasse in Illecillewaet Glacier, CanadaThe Lydia, England

Old postcard from around 1890 of the 'Lydia', a ship in EnglandPenshurst Place in Tunbridge Wells, England

On old postcard from around 1895 of Penshurst Place in Tunbridge Wells

More old historic photos

There are large collections of photochrom prints on the web. The biggest gallery can be found on the web site of the US Library of Congress.

Below is my selection of images from this library that attracted me, either because they are of places I have been to or because of their interesting composition or color:

The photochrom process

Photochroms are not photographs but actual prints, produced using 6 to 15 colors and the lithography printing process. The technique was invented by the Swiss Hans Jakob Schmid during the 1880s.

The fascinating aspect of these prints is that they are created from a black and white photograph. Below is an example, with the original photo to the left and the print to the right.

A black and white photo and the resulting photochrom color print

8 August 2013

One response to “Photochrome prints”

  1. AKite says:

    Thanks for documenting these! I love the way they look. 🙂


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