First photo First photo in 3D First colour photo First colour photo in 3D

First colour photo

1. The technology

2. The human subject


First colour photo of a person, and first colour portrait photo

The Eastman Museum holds a Junior Kromogram [three black and white separation positives in cardboard mounts connected to each other top and bottom by cotton tape] by Frederick Eugene Ives (1856–1937) entitled 'Mother', and dated 10 October 1891. Presumably this is a portrait of the photographer's mother Ellen Adelaide (Beach) Ives (1834–1908). If this is correct, this is probably the best candidate. It's not known whether a colour reconstruction has been made. [Wooters]

Laputan Logic includes a colour photograph of a man (or perhaps a photograph of a painting of a man) said to be by Louis Arthur Ducos du Hauron (1837–1920), and dating from 1876. I have not yet found corroboration for this, although Eder confirms that du Hauron founded a company that year for the the production of three-colour prints by photoglypty (Woodburytype) [p646]. Pinterest also has a colour portrait photo said to be by Ducos du Hauron, but it is undated.



First colour photo of a man

the first colour photo of a man: half of a stereoscopic photo of Gabriel Veyre

The strongest candidate so far identified is this trichrome self-portrait of Gabriel Veyre (1871–1936), cinematographic operator for the Lumière brothers, taken in Mexico during his 1896/1898 world tour on behalf of the company. The image is © coll. Jacquier–Veyre, and may be found on the wonderful website, where the original is described as stereoscopic.

The Eastman Museum holds a number of Junior Kromograms and (stereo) Kromograms of male subjects. It's quite possible that some or all of these date from before 1898, but none are dated. [Wooters]

In similar vein, there exists a Junior Kromogram, said to have been taken "about 1897", in which there is the figure of a man seated in front of the stone wall of a thatched hut, probably in Scotland, photographed by Cameron Swan (probably Donald Cameron–Swan, 1863–1951, eldest son of the inventor Sir Joseph Wilson Swan). [posting by Bill Becker to the PhotoHistory Yahoo group, 2010-04-14]

Laputan Logic includes a colour photograph of a man (or perhaps a photograph of a painting of a man) said to be by Louis Ducos du Hauron, and dating from 1876. I have not yet found corroboration for this.



Earliest-born person to be photographed in colour

Alphones Davanne, chemist and photographer, was born 12 April 1824, and lived until 19 September 1912. He was the subject of the above anonymous autochrome, dated to c. 1970–1912. [Société française de photographie; Wikipedia; arago86]



Earliest-born woman to be photographed in colour


This is Jakobine Brigitte (Sterk) Stieffal, born 11 July 1832 in Baden-Württemberg, photographed in 1915 by Nathan Strauss. [Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library]. She is currently the strongest candidate for earliest-born woman to be photographed in colour. [arago86]

The first portrait produced by the interferential process of direct photography, first described by Gabriel Lippmann (1845–1921) in February 1891, was by the brothers Lumière in 1893. The subject was one of the Lumière daughters, with her head resting on a table set with fruits and bottles. The whereabouts of the original is currently unknown, but it was reproduced in black and white in the 1905 edition of Eder's Geschichte der Photographie, at p447. [Schröter; Hannouch, ed.]


Full references for printed works

Brian Coe (1978) Colour Photography. The first hundred years 1840–1940. London: Ash & Grant

Josef Maria Eder (1932, tr. 1945) History of Photography, 3rd edn. New York: Dover

Hanin Hannouch, ed. (2022) Gabriel Lippmann's Colour Photography. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press

Bertrand Lavédrine and Jean-Paul Gandolfo (2009) L'autochrome Lumière. Secrets d'atelier et défis industriels. Paris: CTHS

Basil Mahon (2003) The Man Who Changed Everything. The Life of James Clerk Maxwell. Chichester: Wiley

Sylvie Pénichon (2013) Twentieth Century Colour Photographs. The complete guide to processes, identification & preservation. London: Thames & Hudson

Rolf Sachsse (April 2022) 'Why in Color? Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskiĭ and His Travels 1908–1918', in PhotoResearcher 37, Three-Colour Photography around 1900. Technologies, Expeditions, Empires, ed. Hanin Hannouch

Jens Schröter (2014) 3D. History, Theory and Aesthetics of the Transplane Image. New York and London: Bloomsbury Academic. [Originally published in German in 2009 as 3D: Zur Geschichte, Theorie und Medienästhetik des technisch-transplaned Bildes. Paderborn, Germany: Verlag Wilhelm Fink]

D. Wooters (1994), 'Ives Kromograms'—Eastman Museum listing of their Kromogram collection


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This page was last revised on 2023-02-25.