Posted: Thursday, January 20, 2011
Developed in the early years of the twentieth century, Autochromes were the result of the first commercially viable color photographic process. Yet the dyes used to impart the color in Autochromes are so sensitive to light that typical exhibition conditions cause rapid and irreversible fading, which has led to the Metropolitan Museum's policy of not exhibiting these vulnerable photographs. As the Museum's research scholar in photograph conservation, I spent three years studying the stability of Autochrome dyes. I began my research with a desire to better understand how and under what conditions Autochromes fade and, ideally, to devise a safe way to exhibit these important photographs. The exciting culmination of my work will take place next week, January 25–30, when five original Autochromes by Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen will be displayed in low-oxygen enclosures as part of the special exhibition Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand.