Autochromes Lumière
The technological process > Method of Use > Reproducing the Image


Reproducing the Image

A Procedure with a "Unique Image"
The Lumière brothers had hoped to find a way to copy the Autochrome like that of the printed image, unfortunately however, a means was never found that truly allowed one to obtain a faithful and stable reproduction. Following the example of the daguerreotype, the Autochrome would remain non-reproducible, essentially a "unique image." The only remarkable exceptions to this was the possibility of engraving an impression, a procedure that would allow for the reproduction of Autochrome images in the newspapers and magazines of the time, such as l'Illustration in France and National Geographic in the United States.

The Contact Print
Though there are many references of attempts of contact duplication between an Autochrome and an unexposed plate, the end result was always of poor quality. To make such a copy it would be necessary to match the distribution of coloured starch granules between the original and the unexposed plate, which is impossible. In effect, the principle upon which the Autochrome relied was exactly this uncertain distribution of the coloured granules of starch. In the collections, it is possible to find some plates reproduced by contact with the identical format, but these reproductions are strongly underexposed and desaturated. The odd professional operator (such as those of the Archives de la Planète, Léon Gimpel, Jules Gervais-Courtellemont, etc.) claimed to have regularly produced an Autochrome "double," these were however fake doubles, as they were really different pictures taken of the some subject produced for various clients. Only a system of multiple, detachable plates (Finlay, Dufay, etc.) would allow one to make a true copy of sufficient quality.