January 14, 2007 8:49 AM   Subscribe

A Photochrom is a color photo lithograph, produced from a black-and-white negative. They were especially popular in the 1890s and were frequently used on postcards. presents "over 1,300 different images of United States, Canada, Mexico and Cuba." But that's nothing—the Library of Congress presents 5,000 of them, from all over the world. The first page is nature shots from Ireland; I suggest clicking on the page links at the top, finding a region that interests you, and using the PREV PAGE - NEXT PAGE links to find more. Some favorites: a street in Fiume (now Rijeka), the harbor of Algiers, the outskirts of Jerusalem. (LoC link via wood s lot.)
posted by languagehat (28 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Awesome, languagehat. Really really awesome. This is the kind of thing that makes me wish I could have visited these places way back then. Thanks!
posted by Eekacat at 8:53 AM on January 14, 2007

Wow. As I randomly jump around on both sites, every single page has at least on or two stunning images. This is great. Big thanks!
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 9:03 AM on January 14, 2007

Great post. A most splendid way for me to spend a Sunday evening. Cheers.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 9:17 AM on January 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Wow! This is great stuff.
posted by caddis at 9:21 AM on January 14, 2007

You know, every once in a while I'll read something about international politics and lurch into a spell of bitter anti-Americanism. Then I remember the LOC and their online Prokudin-Gorskiy exhibit, their antique map collection and, as of now, this set of pictures, all provided for free to a non-citizen in another country. It really makes it difficult to maintain the rage.
posted by claudius at 9:24 AM on January 14, 2007

Awesome! I love color photographs from way back when. Unlike black and white photos, these add a healthy dose of "reality" to history, making it seem not so distant. The Empire That Was Russia has terrific color photos taken by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, including people, architecture, and so on.

I'm souped that I'll have even more photos of this caliber to browse through.
Thank you, languagehat.

On preview: BLAST, claudius!!
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 9:33 AM on January 14, 2007

Thanks for these terrific links.

Interesting how most of the images, from everywhere, are framed at considerable distance, giving us panoramas/vistas/landscapes.

Current day postcard and tourist imagery is so different, striving to be much more sensory -- "in your face" rather than "from afar."

posted by Julie at 9:34 AM on January 14, 2007

Oh man but I forgive you for that map link, claudius.

You guys have both made my day!
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 9:36 AM on January 14, 2007

I could think of a more difficult way to do color photography, but it would take a long time.

The control you'd get, though. Control is the reason the Dye Transfer printers stick with the process, despite the fact that nobody makes the dyes or matrix materials anymore.
posted by eriko at 9:38 AM on January 14, 2007

Claudius: Do you know how I could download the high-res versions of these maps? Like this one for example? Photoshop can't open the jp2 files.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 9:51 AM on January 14, 2007

I find this beautiful and... depressing. Although I don't necessarily think life was 'better' back in those days, my heart aches at the sheer beauty of a world without electrical wires, concrete, roads, subdivision houses, big-box retail centers and pollution all over the place.
posted by PigAlien at 9:59 AM on January 14, 2007

CitrusFreak12, I just opened it with Irfranview which is a free image viewing prog. (otherwise I wonder if you have to set file associations or the whatnot in photoshop menu?)

Thanks for the post LanguageHat. Great stuff.
posted by peacay at 10:06 AM on January 14, 2007

That's languagehat and Irfanview.
posted by peacay at 10:08 AM on January 14, 2007

I was able to open the jp2 files in Firefox, after manually telling it to do so.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:10 AM on January 14, 2007

Wow thanks! Great post! I'll be browsing these for ages.

::: writing up "lack of sleep" lawsuit against LH :::

See you in court, buddy.
posted by The Deej at 10:11 AM on January 14, 2007 delmoi moment.....Citrus, I can view the image because I also downloaded the Irfanview plugins I've now noticed (also free from same site).
posted by peacay at 10:11 AM on January 14, 2007

CitrusFreak: like peacay says, you can use Irfanview, but at the bottom of the map page there is a link to a link to this page which itself links to ER Viewer (available from these people, after some clicking). ER Viewer really is a brilliant viewer for huge images, much better than Irfanview IMO.

There are also some images there in MrSID format, which is apparently designed for maps. You can get a viewer for those from the here.

And if you like those maps, you'll probably like Rumsey Historical Map Collection, which has, AFAICT, all its maps downloadable as MrSID files as well (which you can export to TIFF, then edit with Photoshop or whatever you want).
posted by claudius at 10:18 AM on January 14, 2007

Not exactly P.C. titles in the "Ethnic" section: "Six Little Pickannies" or "Coons in a Cotton Shed," but some great photography-based paintings. It would be fun to see the original photo images too.
posted by BillyElmore at 10:32 AM on January 14, 2007

Thanks for all the map links/help guys! I just need to figure out a way to make large prints of them now...

And BillyElmore, I assume that those titles were the original titles given to the photos back when they were first taken.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 10:38 AM on January 14, 2007

I'm a bit unclear on how to find a list of different regions or subjects within this search. Pointers?

Gorgeous stuff.
posted by digitalis at 10:40 AM on January 14, 2007

Spectacular! There goes my Sunday. Thanks, LH!
posted by scody at 11:23 AM on January 14, 2007

I don't understand how a B&W negative eventually produced color prints - did they shoot multiple negs using color filters, or are were the colors added via lithography just arbitrarily selected to look good? The photochromes here all look like something in-between hand-coloring and the 'HDR' images that inundate flickr nowadays.
posted by unmake at 11:38 AM on January 14, 2007

I am breathless. I am fairly sure this picture of Columbia U. Library was taken from my building, erm, maybe even my apartment. Oh, what a view I could have had. The building was erected in 1901 and the picture is from 1903. The angle, even the level is -oh god- right. Stunning. Clearly, this picture is my favorite, from an anyway spectacular pool.
posted by carmina at 11:59 AM on January 14, 2007

Once again, colorization rears its ugly head.
posted by Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson at 12:20 PM on January 14, 2007

Damn, carmina, that CU picture is pretty amazing. So much has changed.
posted by neustile at 2:05 PM on January 14, 2007

posted by vronsky at 3:44 PM on January 14, 2007

I feel like an incredible dunce, looking at these.

My grandmother had boxes of photochroms, documenting the railway her grandfather was involved with in SoCalifornia, and I always assumed they were painstakingly handcolored...I feel doubly idiotic for leaving them all for my aunt to sort (read: toss) when the emotional exhaustion of cleaning out my grandmother's museum of a house after her death got to be too much for me.

Thank you for this bittersweet post.
posted by squasha at 12:31 AM on January 15, 2007

Some heavenly links for a hobby photographer like me :)
posted by autoverzekering at 9:06 AM on January 15, 2007

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