Turn-of-the-Century Germany in Color Photographs


Instant color film didn’t come about until the 1960s, but long before that, crafty photographers found ways to inject a few more hues into their images.

One of these early techniques was called the Photochrom process, invented by Swiss lithographer Hans Jakob Schmid as a way to mass-produce color images from black-and-white negatives. The first images created using Photochrom were presented at the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris. Popular in the U.S. and Europe from the mid-1890s up to 1914, Photochrom postcards were often sold at resorts and hotels. 

Around the same time, the German Empire, at that time ruled by Kaiser Wilhelm II, was experiencing a boon in travel. In addition to the standard modes such as trains, trams, and steamers, driving and flying were in their nascent stages, and many average citizens could afford to travel for pleasure, purchasing postcards to remember their trip.

A new book of early color photography of German destinations, Germany Around 1900: A Portrait in Colour, shows what turn-of-the-century tourists would have seen as they went about their travels. The book's 800 rose-tinted images provide an unusual look back at the vacations of yore through photographs and postcards produced around 1900. They provide a peaceful, nostalgic look back at the countryside before World War I and the fall of the German Empire—and a time when it was socially acceptable to wear suits to the beach. 

Germany around 1900: A Portrait in Colour will be available from TASCHEN ($200) in December. 

All images courtesy TASCHEN