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January 18, 2004

Ancient Color

We think of the past as having occurred in black and white. A couple of weeks ago, Alex and I chuckled at something on TV that had a flashback to ancient Rome that was in black and white, as if Kodachrome wasn't available yet but Tri-X was.

So it's amazing when you can look at genuine color photos from close to a century ago. It makes the past seem closer, more like the present in some ways. Where can you see such pictures? The Library of Congress Prokudin-Gorskii Photographic Record site shows the work of a Russian photographer who took three pictures of the same scene through red, green and blue filters. Back in the early 20th century, he would then project those images through the same filters and recreate a full color image. Today the same effect was achieved by combining the images digitally. Very cool stuff.

I'm guessing that by 2104 somebody will have figured out how to construct 3-D images out of the boring flat color pictures we take today.