Autochromes Lumière
The technological process > Historical Overview > The Scientific Principle (1904)

The Scientific Principle

The Autochrome: A Positive Image on Glass
This invention is presented before the Académie des sciences on May 30, 1904, with these words: "The method that is the object of the present discussion is based on the employment of coloured particles, spread out in a single layer across a sheet of glass, then covered with a suitable varnish, and finally with a sensitive emulsion. One exposes the plate thus prepared from behind, develops it and inverts the image which then presents, through its transparency, the colours of the photographed original." These two phrases summarise the structure and the principle behind what would become a landmark process in the history of photography, but this disconcerting simplicity cannot entirely mask the difficulties that would confront the Lumières before finally realising its industrial production and commercialisation in 1907.

Documentary Sources
Though a great number of documents have been destroyed or have disappeared since the Lumière factories of Monplaisir closed their doors, some important sources have nonetheless been preserved. Some were kept by individuals, such as Doctor Paul Génard. Other were conserved by the Institut Lumière or by members of the Lumière family and their close collaborators. The study of patents and official publications, as well as the physical evidence provided by the Autochromes themselves and their chemical analysis, has further revealed many important elements needed for the reconstruction of the essential stages of the Autochrome procedure. This research has encouraging specialists of the history of photographic techniques to retrace the footsteps of Louis Lumière and to recreate in the laboratory the delicate system of starch which once brought the procedure process to life.