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News & Insight

The City of Paris 100 Years Ago in Color

By Joseph Cha on November 25th 2013

Color Photos From 100 Years Ago

When I think photos from 100 years ago I think of black and white images where the kids faces are all blurry because they couldn’t sit still long enough for the photo to be exposed properly. Apparently while everyone was taking photos this way, the Parisians were taking color photos using the “Autochrome” technology.

In 1903, Auguste and Louis Lumière invented and patenting the process of color photography: the Autochrome plate. This plate provides a color from tiny grains of potato starch.

The photos are beautiful, and it’s interesting to see what Paris and its people looked like 100 years ago. It’s also startling how similar autochrome grain looks like high ISO noise we get from modern digital cameras.

Paris 100 Years Ago

30-janvier-1910-inondations-seine 53-rue-cambon-1918 auguste-lc3a9on-13-juillet-1919 big-commercials-made-by-citroc3abn-on-the-eiffel-tower-for-the-1925-parisian-exposition exposition-au-grand-palais-1909 exposition-universelle-trocadc3a9ro-1937 famille-rue-du-pot-de-fer-24-juin-1914 ier-arr-marchc3a8-aux-fleurs-aux-halles86-rue-rambuteau-21-juin-1914 intc3a9rieur-dune-maison-1910 invalides-1918 notre-dame-1920 palais-des-gobelins-cinc3a9ma-pathc3a9-1918 parvis-de-notre-dame-1918 place-de-la-concorde quai-du-louvre-1920 rue-du-faubourg-saint-denis-1914 tour-eiffel viic2b0-arr-jardin-des-invalides-1909 xvic2b0-arr-jardins-potagers-quai-d_auteuil-actuel-quai-louis-blc3a9riot-avec-en-face-le-pont-de-grenelle-et-la-statue-de-la-libertc3a9-28-juin-1918-auguste-lc3a9on xvic2b0-arr-station-de-mc3a9tro-auteuil-boulevard-exelmans-1er-mai-1920-frc3a9dc3a9ric-gadmer


[Source: lejournaldusiecle]


I’m a photographer and cinematographer based in Southern California. When I don’t have a camera in my face I enjoy going to the movies and dissecting the story telling and visual aesthetics.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Evelyn Chuter

    Awesome Pictures. I love old pictures like this. Send more so I can pin them on my Pinterest Board

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  2. Mike

    What I find amazing is that contrary to many other European countries in those days, Paris looked anything but austere. Even in hard times It had color, fashion, decorations and art everywhere. It breathed life. I love this. Thanks for posting it. Am I dreaming or is that a Louis Vuitton truck in the 3rd picture ? If it is, I had no idea the company was that old.

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  3. Lou

    These photos are interesting but would have been more interesting if the places in the photos were included. Where in Paris were they taken? Also, some description of some of them would be interesting. For example, what are those giant orange balls in one of them? Why are they there?

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    • Mike

      I appreciate the fact that nothing is explained. To me that’s what the art of photography is all about. It needs no explanation. The images are there for liberal interpretation and letting one’s imagination run free. Unanswered questions are part of the fun.

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  4. Jonas Weckschmied

    There is a very extensive thread about this process on APUG, but to this day nobody managed to produce new autochrome plates

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  5. Jude

    I love the picture with the girl selling flower by the street. For all you know it could have been taken yesterday and photoshoped. Just amazing.

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  6. Audrey

    WOW! Would love to have a set to hang in my studio. I hope SLR Lounge does a article on them and their process. How long would those prints hold up? How large or small are the prints?
    So see SLR Lounge, we need a in depth article!!!

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  7. William Peng

    I see a Louis Vuitton truck on the third picture~~

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  8. tanya smith

    So cool! I’m curious to know more about the science behind that process. How do we get color from potato starch???

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