Lippmann colour photography

Lippmann colour photography is a very rare and early type of colour photography. In 1908, Gabriel Lippmann was awarded the nobel prize in appreciation of this invention and his explanation of its scientific principles.
In contrary to later, conventional colour photography, where the image is being translated into colour, in case of the Lippmann technique light waves directly reproduce themselves in the emulsion layer, generating interferential colours in the same manner as the surface of insect wings or soap bubbles does.

True colours are visible only, if Lippmann plates are viewed more or less perpendicularly relative to the light source. Otherwise, no colours are visible and the image looks like a common negative (image 2, 3 and 8). This compares to holograms, which are related to Lippmann photographs. Lippmann photographs are taken in a large format camera on glass plates, coated with an extremely fine-grained emulsion based on gelatine or albumen. Due to the low sensitivity of the emulsion, very long exposure times of several minutes up to several hours are neccessary, even if light conditions are good.

It is a complicated and rather unreliable technique and no copies can be made of Lippmann plates. In addition, just a few years after the invention of the Lippmann technique, conventional colour photography as still in use today develloped. For those reasons Lippmann photography never properly took off, even though it was sensational at its time and, even by todays' standards, Lippmann plates are strikingly beautiful.
The Lippmann photographs shown here are based on an albumen emulsion. They were made in 2010- 2012 in a 9 x 12 cm camera on glass plates.


qw quarzwerk


Rainer Geschke
Leinestr. 47, 12049 Berlin

Photo: Rainer Geschke


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