Are These the First Color Photos Ever Taken of a Day at the Beach?

by Owen James Burke

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Autochrome required long exposures and heavy filtering because it was so sensitive to indigo and violet light. Combined with a wide aperture, the result is a glassy sea and a soft background, with fine detail of the still subjects–Christina and the skiff. “Christina in Red,” c. 1913. Photo by Lieutenant Colonel Mervyn O’Gorman.

These beautiful stills of ‘Christina’ capture the timeless essence of woman and sea, and might be the first, true color photographs of a day at the beach.

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“Christina in Red,” c. 1913. Photo by Lieutenant Colonel Mervyn O’Gorman.

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Mervyn and Christina’s mother have long since passed, but there’s been no trace of Christina’s life. Photo by Lieutenant Colonel Mervyn O’Gorman.

While early color photography is most commonly associated with WWII, autochrome was developed in the early 1900s by the Lumiere brothers, who used a glass plate coated with a mosaic of microscopic grains of potato starch died red, orange, and violet (effectively, a color filter). These images taken by Lieutenant Colonel Mervyn O’Gorman of his daughter, Christina, are from 1913.

The photo series, “Christina in Red” is part of an exhibition called “Drawn by Light,” open at the British National Science Museum in London until June 21st. –OJB

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