Autochromes Lumière

Gabriel Veyre, the Moroccan Adventure

The Life of Gabriel Veyre was Intimately Tied to the Beginnings of Colour Photography.
Born in the French region of Isère in 1871, Gabriel Veyre studied pharmaceuticals in Lyon. In 1895 the Lumière brothers had just invented the Cinématographe and were searching for operators to promote their invention. They recruited Gabriel Veyre, a recent graduate, in 1896. His mission: to make cinema known throughout the world by directing and projecting some of the industry's first films. In 1898, the Lumière brothers developed the photographic procedure with bichromate mucilage, called trichromatic photography. Gabriel Veyre was also charged with promoting this new technique and organised the projection of these coloured images all around the world. In 1901, he became the photographer of Moulay Abdel el Aziz, the young Sultan of Morocco, who - after having tried his hand at drawing and painting - wished to take up photography. What he needed was an expert to initiate him. "Why not me? It is an excellent occasion to see a new land, more mysterious and more closed than any of those that I have seen until now. My candidature was submitted. They took me. I left. That was at the beginning of 1901" (Extract from Veyre's 1905 book, Dans l'intimité du sultan). Upon arriving at the palace of Marrakesh, Gabriel Veyre set up his studio. The Sultan Moulay Abd el Aziz was then only twenty years old and wished to know everything, from the handling of the vérascope to the mysteries of the darkroom and "the images of three colours." It was thus that Gabriel Veyre brought trichromatic colour photography to the young Sultan, who would develop several brilliant portraits of his wives. Though these images, with bichromated mucilage, had an arresting effect on the viewer, the procedure was in the end too complicated and was soon abandoned by the Lumière brothers.

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