From the beginnings of the daguerreotype, scientists and researchers dreamt of the silver plate retaining a colour imprint. Nevertheless they had to wait for an extension in photosensitivity to include all visible colours in the spectrum for photography to satisfy this desire…
From 1859, Louis Ducos du Hauron, a pianist with a passion for optics, threw himself into the task: “the experience of painters taught me that a mix, in suitable proportions, of red, yellow and blue could produce more or less every colour”. Thus he demonstrated the principle of trichromy, and on 7 May 1869, he presented his results to the French Photography Society. For his part, the poet Charles Cros became author at the same time of the work “General solution to the problem of colour photography”.
In 1874, Louis Ducos du Hauron patented the Melanochromoscope, a camera fitted with a single lens and semi-transparent mirrors, enabling a simultaneous exposure of three separate black-and-white plates through three filters, blue, green and red. It was possible to restore all the colours (through additive synthesis), by superposing these three pictures coloured in their respective tints on top of one another. Ducos du Hauron was thus the true creator of colour photography, and modern processes were the product of his discovery.
With the development of colour in the realm of publishing, photographers found a new sphere of activity: they didn’t just take pictures using trichrome bodies, with the help of processes like pinatype, they also worked on the selection of colours as a function of the future print they would make, giving their subjects a test print in reference.
Le mélanochromoscope, Ducos du Hauron & Lesueur, Paris, 1899
Chambre trichrome de Louis Ducos du Hauron. Appareil de prise de vue qui fournissait trois vues de 35x35 mm chacune sur une seule plaque. Egalement utilisable comme visionneuse d’image polychrome à partir de plaques positives