Mervyn Joseph Pius O’Gorman CB (19 December 1871 – 16 March 1958) was a pioneer in color photography. A skilled electrical engineer who exprimented with celluloid and became Superintendent of the Royal Balloon Factory at Farnborough, O’Gorman developed a keen eye for light, color and movement.
O’Gorman’s pictures of his daughter Christina, in 1912 and 1913 on the pebble beach at Lulworth Cove on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, epitomise the Lumière brothers’ Autochrome process.
The technology and O’Gorman’s talent transform Christina’s red cloak and swimsuit into things magical and hyper-real.
The National Media Museum has more:
The manufacture of Autochrome plates, undertaken at the Lumière factory in Lyon, was a complex industrial process. First, transparent starch grains were passed through a series of sieves to isolate grains between ten and fifteen microns (thousandths of a millimetre) in diameter. Many different types of starch were tried, but the humble potato was found to give the best results. These microscopic starch grains were separated into batches, dyed red, green and blue-violet, mixed together and then spread over a glass plate coated with a sticky varnish. Next, carbon black (charcoal powder) was spread over the plate to fill in any gaps between the coloured starch grains. A roller submitted the plate to a pressure of five tons per square centimetre in order to spread the grains and flatten them out. On every square inch of the surface of an Autochrome plate there are about four million transparent starch grains, each one of which acts as a tiny coloured filter. Finally, the plate was coated with a panchromatic photographic emulsion…
Photographers could use their existing cameras… Exposures were made through a yellow filter which corrected the excessive blue sensitivity of the emulsion and gave a more accurate colour rendering. This, combined with the light-filtering effect of the dyed starch grains, meant that exposure times were very long – about thirty times that of monochrome plates. It was not until October 1907 that the first, eagerly awaited, consignment of plates went on sale in Britain. By 1913, the Lumière factory was making 6,000 Autochrome plates a day, in a range of different sizes.