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Encounters with Colour Photography
In the days of Black and White photography, if one wanted a touch of colour to the photograph, then one gave the enlargement to photo studio for tinting. Their artist would hand-paint the photo with transparent colours. These colours came not in bottles or tubes, but were thick sheets of paper which were colour coated.

With a wet brush lightly the colour was picked up for painting the photo. It could not be thick; otherwise the photo below would not be visible. The job was time consuming.

In 1951, I came across Ilford colour film from UK. At Allahabad University, we processed it manually in our photo club darkroom. It had to be developed thrice, once for each colour and before it could dry, it had to be exposed to white light for ‘solarisation’. This resulted in the developed negative turning into positive. These transparencies could only be viewed against light. Never tried again, as the whole process was messy and results uncertain.

A couple of years later films usable by the common man arrived - rolls of Agfacolor, Kodak’s Kodachrome, Kodacolor and Ektacolor. I preferred Ektacolor for its pastel shades. Still, between clicking and seeing the results the wait was agonising. The exposed roll was put in a small bag, provided with film and mailed for processing to Bombay. The job came back by post in about 5 weeks.

Now, one had a choice of shooting for colour negatives, or positive prints or slides. Elementary slide projectors also arrived on the scene. A new dimension in photography opened up for us. In the beginning these films were slow, and we had to figure out new timings and apertures for the lighting conditions. The accompanying colour photo was clicked in 1963 and sent to Germany for processing.

In the meanwhile, Polaroid arrived with its instant photo camera. You click, and just pull out the sandwich paper. It had two sensitive photo papers facing each other. You start peeling off the two sheets and see that both the negative and the positive were developing right in front of your eyes. In a minute, one had a dry photo print in ones hand. Truly, a miracle!

Dr. Edwin Land, the inventor of the Polaroid camera was a very inventive genius. At that time he had the highest number of patents in his name. While searching for new chemistry for instant developing of the picture, he discovered new chemical processes - which had wider applications in industry, worldwide.

Also for the auto focus of the camera, he developed a revolutionary ultrasound ‘radar’, for measuring the distance of the subject from the camera. In all, he discovered about 50 new principles, while designing the camera and ways of instantly developing the exposed paper.

Alas, the colour film and instant colour photography got a jolt from the game changing digital era. Soon digital cameras arrived, where no processing in studios was required and the image was instantly visible and saved. And it could easily be shared over the net.

Several camera companies and film/photo paper manufacturers closed shop. Finally, with good quality cameras being incorporated in smart phones, the era of colour film photography and compact cameras was over, except for very special applications.

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