The theory and technology of early colour photographic processes including antipodean heliochromes housed in the Australian War Memorial : an essay

  • Mark Nizette

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    The research in this essay encompasses both a literature survey of the technological and theoretical 6evelopments in early forms of colour photography, and practical research to determine the colour image stability of one of these forms of photography, the Paget Plate. The stimulus for this work was derived from a distinct paucity of literature explaining the origins of colour photographic processes, more specifically the neglect of any such work to include much data about these technologies which may assist in the conservation treatment of colour photographic artefacts. The complexity of these objects necessitates a sound understanding of their construction and treatment before proper conservation measures may be carried out. In order, then, to more accurately determine their composition, primary source material was relied upon to reveal processing formulas, adhesives, dyes, emulsions and many other components which were combined to make these photographs. Chapter one serves to give an overview of the development of colour photographic processes. The first section is by no means comprehensive, and systems more likely to occur in Australian collections are elaborated upon in chapter three. The latter part of chapter one is concerned with dyes used in these early processes for both the colouring of the artefact, and the increasing of spectral sensitivity of the emulsions. Appendix one complements these two sections as it gives formulas and some characteristics of these dyes. Chapter two was included to expand awareness of the processes of colour vision ana colour theory, and to acquaint the reader with ways in which colour may be measured. Any conservator treating colour photographic objects should be familiar with these so that the effects of treatments and experiments may be properly recorded. Of the four systems described in chapter three, the first-was included to illustrate the early directions of this type of research whilst the latter three occur in Australia. Although these are explained in a number of sources, it is hoped that this chapter will help the conservator to understand the full processes involved in each of these systems, thereby reducing the likelihood of an improper treatment. As an essential complement to this literature-derived information, practical research was carried out on one of these forms of colour photography, the Paget Plate. This process is typical in many of its fundamental aspects of most forms of additive colour photography. The investigation was useful in determining an approach to the restoration and preservation of the Paget collection belonging to the Australian war Memorial. Many other collections through Australia, both public and private, contain Paget Plates and other forms of early colour photography, this research may assist also in their proper treatment. Such a bilateral approach towards an understanding of the characteristics and composition of these artefacts is essential to determine both possible and actual conservation problems. Appendix two is designed to illustrate the vast 3 range of photographic processes which have been invented by photographers, and may be used as a reference for possible identification of an unknown artefact. This may be compared with appendix three which describes popular modern colour photographic processes. The remaining three appendices refer to experimental procedures in chapter four. It is hoped that this essay may help to educate conservators and curators alike, thereby assisting a detailed history of Australian colour photography to be researched and compiled.
    Date of Award1983
    Original languageEnglish

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