Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Lady in Red

Stills from 102 years ago - These photos are from 1913, one year before the start of World War I, and they have a modern feel and dream-like quality that wouldn't be out of a place in an Instagram post.

They were taken by a process known as autochrome, and developed by Lumière Brothers, and was the only widely used color photography technique used until film caught up in the 1930's.

The photographer is Mervyn O'Gormon, a famed British engineer. The girl is believed to be his daughter Christina, captured on a beach in Lolworth Cover, Southern England.

Images of Christian are displayed in the exhibit Drawn by Light: The Royal Photographic Collection, at the National Media Museum, Bedford, England, until June 21.

These photographs of a girl in a red dress have a startling modern feel to them, despite dating back 102 years to the dawn of color photography.

Mysterious girl? Even though it's fair to assume that the girl is the photographer's daughter, Christina, some uncertainty remains. "We do not know who Christina is," Colin Harding, Curator of Photographs and Photographic Technology at the National Media Museum has said.

There is no record of Lt. Mervyn O'Gormon, and  his wife Florence, having any children as I have been able to find. There is a census record of a Christina O'Gormon living in Dublin Ireland born in the 1890's.

"That would make her about the same age as the model in the pictures, and we do know that Mervyn O'Gormon had family ties to Ireland. It is possible she is the same person, but it is impossible to say.

A red beach dress - The autochrome process, which captured the color red particularly well, involved a glass pane covered with dyed potato starch which acted as a filter.

Subsequent versions, which did away with the glass and used film, remained in use until the 1950's but were eventually overshadowed by more advanced techniques.
An engineer with many talents - "Interestingly, O'Gormon was not a professional photographer nor a member of a photograpic society," Harding said. "He was an enthusiastic amateur who was a professional engineer with an interest in motorcars, technology and aircraft. His passion for autochrome could stem from his interest in modern technology, but he did publish a book of poem and had other artistic interests later in life."
Christina is seen here with her mother, Florence and younger sister. Mervyn O'Gormon's camera case lies to their right. Autochrome glass plates did not require and special equipment and could be used with any camera.

Mervyn died in 1958, his wife much earlier in 1931. There are no records of the daughters.
The girl by the pond - Seemingly unaware of the camera in almost every shot, here the young girl is seen gazing into an ornamental pool. The location of this photo is not known, but it may have been taken at the gardens of Rempstead Halls, near Corfe Castle in England.
Red and green - Mervyn O'Gormon, who was 42 when these shots were taken, was born in Brighton. He was an electrical and aeronautical engineer and in 1909 was named Superintendent of the Royal Aircraft Factory.
Christina on display - Some of the original autochromo photographs from this series will be displayed in the exhibit Dawn by Light: The Royal Photographic Collection, Bradford, England, until June 21.

Now, go make something beautiful ...

¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)(¸.•´
(¸.•´♥ Tristan
Special thanks to Jennifer Kincheloe, author of the Anna Blanc series of Victorian detective novels, who
first introduced me to these marvelous early photographic works of art. Her latest book, The Secret Life of Anna
Blanc - Mystery, Murder, and Romance in 1900's L.A. is available now for pre-order.


peggy gatto said...

Loved seeing red. The color in the first pics remind of the movie the red shoes, something different in it's richness.
thanks tristan

Unknown said...

Haunting, beautiful.

Unknown said...

I was here. Loved the pics

The Idaho Beauty said...

For some reason, The Great Gatsby comes to mind. I wonder if it's part arrogance or part ignorance that we sometimes look with surprise at various artistic expressions of that age because to our eye we think they have a "modern" look specific to our own age. But that musing aside (not meant as any kind of criticism of you or your description btw), these are beyond lovely and the color magical indeed. Thanks for all the back story.

Neet said...

Thoroughly enjoyed seeing these through your eyes. A very enjoyable read.