We imagine the past in black-and-white, but Mervyn O’Gorman was taking color photos using glass plates coated in potato starch in 1913. The technical name for this process is autochrome, and O’Gorman used it to take beautiful pictures of his daughter Christina wearing red in the British countryside. As the photos contain little to give their era away, they seem to be from no specific period; in fact, they almost weren’t taken at all.
These photos and the technology behind them are both curious side projects, neither of them being the primary invention or occupation of their authors. Autochrome was patented in 1903 by the Lumier Brothers in France, who were most famous for their work with cinema; Mervyn O’Gorman is best known as a motoring pioneer and one of the greatest British aeronautical engineers of his time.
Mervin died in 1958. No details remain of Christina’s life, but Mervin’s 1913 photos remain a beautiful example of what can happen by accident.