How To Hand Color Black And White Photography

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Manually applying colour to black-and-white photographs

A hand-coloured daguerreotype past J. Garnier, c. 1850

mitt-coloring) refers to whatsoever method of manually adding color to a monochrome photograph, more often than not either to raise the realism of the epitome or for artistic purposes.[1]
Paw-colouring is also known every bit hand painting or overpainting.

Typically, watercolours, oils, crayons or pastels, and other paints or dyes are applied to the image surface using brushes, fingers, cotton swabs or airbrushes. Hand-coloured photographs were most popular in the mid- to tardily-19th century earlier the invention of colour photography and some firms specialised in producing hand-coloured photographs.





Monochrome (black and white) photography was first exemplified by the daguerreotype in 1839 and later improved by other methods including: calotype, ambrotype, tintype, albumen print and gelatin silver print. The majority of photography remained monochrome until the mid-20th century, although experiments were producing colour photography as early as 1855 and some photographic processes produced images with an inherent overall colour like the blue of cyanotypes.

In an attempt to create more than realistic images, photographers and artists would hand-color monochrome photographs. The beginning paw-coloured daguerreotypes are attributed to Swiss painter and printmaker Johann Baptist Isenring, who used a mixture of mucilage arabic and pigments to colour daguerreotypes soon after their invention in 1839.[2]
Coloured powder was fixed on the delicate surface of the daguerreotype by the application of heat. Variations of this technique were patented in England by Richard Beard in 1842 and in French republic by Étienne Lecchi in 1842 and Léotard de Leuze in 1845. Later, paw-colouring was used with successive photographic innovations, from albumen and gelatin silver prints to lantern slides[3]
and transparency photography.

Parallel efforts to produce coloured photographic images affected the popularity of hand-colouring. In 1842 Daniel Davis Jr. patented a method for colouring daguerreotypes through electroplating,[iv]
and his work was refined by Warren Thompson the following twelvemonth. The results of the work of Davis and Thompson were only partially successful in creating colour photographs and the electroplating method was soon abased. In 1850 Levi L. Hill announced his invention of a process of daguerreotyping in natural colours in his
Treatise on Daguerreotype.[v]
Sales of conventional uncoloured and hand-coloured daguerreotypes fell in anticipation of this new technology. Hill delayed publication of the details of his process for several years, all the same, and his claims soon came to be considered fraudulent. When he finally did publish his treatise in 1856, the process – whether bona fide or non – was certainly impractical and dangerous.[
citation needed

With the appearance of photographic emulsions on glass came the potential to brand enlargements from them, but for the lack of a sufficiently stiff light source to projection them on to the receiving emulsion as prints on newspaper, canvass or other supports. The solar camera, employing the focussed calorie-free of the sunday, addressed the problem in a repurposing of the solar microscope[six]
by American portrait artist David Acheson Woodward in 1857,[seven]
and others, before beingness superseded by enlargers employing bogus light sources from the 1880s. Life-size portraits fabricated by this ways were mitt coloured in crayon or overpainted in oils and were popular into the 1910s.

Hand-colouring remained the easiest and nigh effective method to produce full-colour photographic images until the mid-20th century when American Kodak introduced Kodachrome color film.

Japanese mitt-coloured photographs (circa 1860–1899)


Original monochrome photo

Hand-colored version

Though the hand-colouring of photographs was introduced in Europe, the technique gained considerable popularity in Japan, where the practice became a respected and refined fine art course beginning in the 1860s. It is possible that photographer Charles Parker and his artist partner William Parke Andrew were the commencement to produce such works in Japan, only the first to consistently use paw-colouring in the country were the photographer Felice Beato and his partner,
The Illustrated London News
artist and colourist Charles Wirgman.[8]
In Beato’due south studio the refined skills of Japanese watercolourists and woodblock printmakers were successfully applied to European photography, every bit evidenced in Beato’s volume of mitt-coloured portraits,
Native Types.

Another notable early photographer in Japan to use manus-colouring was Yokoyama Matsusaburō. Yokoyama had trained every bit a painter and lithographer as well as a photographer, and he took advantage of his extensive repertoire of skills and techniques to create what he called
shashin abura-due east
(写真油絵) or “photographic oil paintings”, in which the paper back up of a photograph was cut away and oil paints then practical to the remaining emulsion.[9]

Later practitioners of hand-colouring in Japan included the business firm of Stillfried & Andersen, which acquired Beato’s studio in 1877 and hand-coloured many of his negatives in add-on to its ain.[10]
Austrian Baron Raimund von Stillfried und Ratenitz, trained Japanese lensman and colorist Kusakabe Kimbei, and together they created mitt-coloured images of Japanese daily life that were very pop every bit souvenirs.[8]
Manus-coloured photographs were also produced by Kusakabe Kimbei, Tamamura Kozaburō, Adolfo Farsari, Uchida Kuichi, Ogawa Kazumasa and others. Many high-quality hand-coloured photographs continued to exist made in Japan well into the 20th century.



The then-chosen golden age of hand-coloured photography in the western hemisphere occurred betwixt 1900 and 1940.[11]
The increased demand for hand-coloured landscape photography at the beginning of the 20th century is attributed to the work of Wallace Nutting. Nutting, a New England government minister, pursued hand-coloured mural photography equally a hobby until 1904, when he opened a professional person studio. He spent the next 35 years creating hand-coloured photographs, and became the best-selling hand-coloured lensman of all time.[12]

Between 1915 and 1925 hand-coloured photographs were pop among the middle classes in the Usa, Canada, Bermuda and the Bahama islands as affordable and fashionable wedding gifts, shower gifts, holiday gifts, friendship gifts, and vacation souvenirs. With the start of the Great Depression in 1929, and the subsequent subtract in the numbers of the heart class, sales of hand-coloured photographs sharply diminished.[12]

Despite their downturn in popularity, skilled photographers connected to create beautifully hand-coloured photographs. Hans Bellmer’s hand-coloured photographs of his own doll sculptures from the 1930s provide an example of continued hand-colouring of photographs in Europe during this time.[13]
In Poland, the Monidło is an example of popular hand-coloured hymeneals photographs.

Some other hand-color photographer, Luis Márquez (1899–1978), was the official photographer for and art adviser of the Mexican Pavilion at the 1939-40 World’s Fair. In 1937 he presented Texas Governor James Five. Allred a collection of manus-coloured photographs. The National Autonomous Academy of Mexico in Mexico City has an extensive Luis Márquez photographic annal, as does the University of Houston in Texas.[14]

By the 1950s, the availability of color film all but stopped the production of hand-coloured photographs. The upsurge in popularity of antiques and collectibles in the 1960s, nonetheless, increased interest in hand-coloured photographs. Since about 1970 there has been something of a revival of mitt-colouring, equally seen in the work of such artist-photographers as Robin Renee Hix, Elizabeth Lennard, January Saudek, Kathy Vargas, and Rita Dibert. Robert Rauschenberg’s and others’ use of combined photographic and painting media in their art represents a precursor to this revival.

In spite of the availability of high-quality color processes, paw-coloured photographs (ofttimes combined with sepia toning) are all the same popular for aesthetic reasons and because the pigments used have keen permanence. In many countries where colour flick was rare or expensive, or where colour processing was unavailable, hand-colouring continued to exist used and sometimes preferred into the 1980s. More recently, digital paradigm processing has been used – especially in advertisement – to recreate the appearance and effects of hand-colouring. Colourisation is now bachelor to the amateur photographer using image manipulation software such equally Adobe Photoshop or Gimp.

Materials and techniques




Basic dyes are used in the mitt-colouring of photographs. Dyes are soluble color substance, either natural or constructed, in an aqueous solution, as opposed to pigments which are generally insoluble color substance in an aqueous suspension. Aniline dyes, the start synthetically produced dyes originally used for the dyeing of textiles, were first used to dye albumen prints and drinking glass transparency photographs in Frg in the 1860s.[15]
When hand-colouring with dyes, a weak solution of dye in water is preferred, and colours are oft built up with repeated washes rather than existence practical all at once. The approach is to
the print rather than to
it, every bit besides much paint volition obscure photographic details. Blotting paper is used to control the amount of dye on the surface by absorbing any backlog.



Watercolour paint has the virtue of being more permanent than dyes, merely is less transparent and then more likely to obscure details. Hand-colouring with watercolours requires the use of a medium to prevent the colours from drying with a dull and lifeless finish. Before the pigment tin can be applied, the surface of the print must exist primed and so that the colours are not repelled. This ofttimes includes prepping the impress with a thin blanket of shellac, so adding grit before colouring.[16]
Watercolour paint used in photographic mitt-colouring consists of iv ingredients: pigments (natural or constructed), a binder (traditionally arabic gum), additives to improve plasticity (such as glycerine), and a solvent to dilute the paint (i.eastward. water) that evaporates when the paint dries. The paint is typically applied to prints using a soft brush. Watercolours oftentimes “leave a darker edge of colour at the boundaries of the painted area.”[17]
Since different pigments take varying degrees of transparency, the choice of colours must be considered carefully. More transparent pigments are preferred, since they ensure greater visibility of the photographic epitome.



Oil paint contains particles of pigment applied using a drying oil, such as linseed oil. The conventions and techniques of using oils demands a noesis of drawing and painting, so it is ofttimes used in professional person practice.
When mitt-colouring with oils, the approach is more often to use the photographic image simply as a base of operations for a painted paradigm. The ability to create accurate oil portraits using a photographic base lent itself to art criminal offence, with some artists claiming to paint traditional oil portraits (for a higher cost) when actually tracing a photograph base in oils. Therefore, the option of oil colours is governed by the relative transparency of the pigments to allow for authentication of the photographic base of operations.
commendation needed

It is necessary to size the print first to forestall assimilation of the colours into the paper. In the past, photographic lantern slides were oftentimes coloured by the manufacturer, though sometimes by the user, with variable results.[18]
Usually, oil colours were used for such slides, though in the collodion era – from 1848 to the end of the 19th century – sometimes watercolours were used too.

Crayons and pastels


The use of crayon or pastel sticks of ground pigments in various levels of saturation is also considered a highly skilled colourist’s domain, as information technology requires knowledge of drawing techniques. Like oils, crayons and pastels more often than not obscure the original photograph, which produces portraits more than akin to traditional paintings. The Photograph-crayotype, Chromotypes and Crayon Collotypes were all used to colourise photographs past the application of crayons and pigments over a photographic impression.[19]
Charcoal and coloured pencils are besides used in hand-colouring of photographs and the terms crayon, pastel, charcoal, and pencil were frequently used interchangeably by colourists.

Hand-coloured photographs sometimes include the combined utilise of dyes, water-colours, oils, and other pigments to create varying furnishings on the printed paradigm. Regardless of which medium is used, the principal tools to use color are the brush and fingertip. Often the dabbing finger is covered to ensure that no fingerprints are left on the image.

Preservation and storage


A tarnished paw-coloured daguerreotype (c. 1852) from the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY.[20]

In general, the preservation of hand-coloured photographs is like to that of colour and monochrome photography. Optimal storage weather condition include an environmentally controlled climate with low relative humidity (approximately 30-twoscore% RH), temperatures under 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius), and a depression concentration of particulate pollution, such as sulfuric acid, nitric acid, and ozone.[21]
The storage area must as well be make clean and gratuitous of pests and mould. Considering hand-coloured photographs, similar colour photographs, are more sensitive to calorie-free and UV radiation, storage should be in a dark location. The storage expanse should be secure and monitored for internal threats – such as change in temperature or humidity due to HVAC malfunction, equally well equally external threats, such as theft or natural disaster. A disaster plan should be created and maintained for all materials.

When handling cased photographs such as daguerreotypes, albumen prints, and tintypes, especially ones that have been hand-coloured, caution is required. They are frail and even minimal efforts to make clean them can irreparably damage the prototype. Manus-coloured cased photographs should be stored horizontally, in a single layer, preferably faced downwardly. Cases can be wrapped with alkaline metal or buffered tissue paper. If the photograph has get separated from its case, a mat and bankroll board can be cut from alkaline metal buffered museum board. The mat is placed betwixt the paradigm and a newly cut glass plate while the backing board supports the epitome from behind. This “sandwich” is and then sealed with Filmoplast tape. Commercial glass cleaners should not be used on new glass plates. Loose manus-coloured tintypes can exist placed between mat boards. If bent, no endeavour should exist fabricated to straighten them as this could cause the emulsion to crack and/or lift.[22]

Ideally, all photographic prints should be stored horizontally, although prints under eleven”x14″ and on stable mounts can be safely stored vertically.[23]
Prints should be stored away from light and water sources in acid-gratuitous, lignin-complimentary boxes manufactured conforming to International Arrangement for Standardization (ISO) Standards 14523 (superseded in 2007 by ISO 18916) and 10214.[24]
Storage materials should laissez passer the American National Standards Found (ANSI) Photographic Activity Exam (PAT), or like standards, to ensure archival quality.[21]
If a photograph exhibits flaking or chipping emulsion it should not be stored in a plastic enclosure as static electricity could further damage the image.[25]
Clean cotton gloves should be worn when handling photographs to prevent peel oils and salts from dissentious the surfaces.

In some cases it may be necessary to contact a professional conservator. In the United States, the American Establish for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) provides a Find a Conservator tool that helps identify local conservation services. In the Great britain and Ireland, the Conservation Register provides a similar tool that searches by specialization, concern, and surname. To locate other conservation services internationally, Conservation OnLine (Absurd) Resources for Conservation Professionals provides a tool that searches by country.

Colouring materials


Dyes and watercolours require like preservation measures when applied to hand-coloured photographs. Like the photographs themselves, watercolours and dyes practical past mitt to photographs are susceptible to light harm and must be housed in dark storage or displayed under dim, indirect light. Mutual particulate pollutants can cause watercolour pigments to fade, but the paint surface can be cleaned by lightly dusting with a soft brush to remove dirt.[26]

Oil paint was frequently applied to tintypes, daguerreotypes, and ambrotypes.[17]
As with all photographs, the materials respond negatively to direct low-cal sources, which can cause pigments to fade and darken, and frequent changes in relative humidity and temperature, which tin crusade the oil paint to crack. For photographs with substantial impairment, the expertise of an oil paintings conservator might exist required for handling.[27]

A framed paw-coloured daguerreotype (c. 1850) from the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY.[28]

Crayon and pastel hand-coloured photographs have a powdery surface which must be protected for preservation purposes. Historically, crayon and pastel coloured photographs were sold in a frame under a protective layer of drinking glass, which was frequently successful in reducing the amount of treatment and smudging of the photo surface.[29]
Any conservation work on crayon or pastel color-photographs must retain these original frames and original glass to maintain the actuality and value of the object. If the photograph is separated from its original enclosure, it tin can be stored in an archival quality folder until it is framed or cased.

Auxiliary materials


Paw-coloured chiffonier photograph (c. 1875) from the State Library of New South Wales. The photo is mounted to a paper backing sheet and shows evidence of deposition.[30]

In the United States, many commercially sold, hand-coloured photographs were packaged and framed for retail sale.[31]
Early 20th century hand-coloured photographs were oftentimes mounted on mat-board, placed behind a glass frame, and backed by woods panel slats, cardboard, or heavy paperboard. A backing canvas was oft glued to the back of the mat-board. Unfortunately, the paper products produced and used during the tardily-19th and early-20th centuries are highly acidic and will cause yellowing, brittling and degradation of hand-coloured photographs. Metallic inclusions in the paper can also oxidize which may be the cause of foxing in paper materials. Wood panel slats volition also off-gas causing further degradation of the photographs.

Simple conservation of these fragile materials can be carried out by the audacious amateur. A mitt-coloured photo should be removed from the frame, retaining any original screws or nails property the frame together. Forest panels, acidic paper-thin slats, and acidic bankroll paper tin exist removed from the frame and mat-lath and discarded, retaining any identifying data such as stamps or writing on the backing paper. The mat-lath on which the photograph is mounted, even though acidic in nature, cannot be removed and replaced due to the intrinsic value of this original mounting. Oftentimes the creative person’s signature and the title of the photograph are inscribed on the mat-board. The best fashion to limit degradation is to shop the photograph in a cool, dry out temper with low low-cal. The manus-coloured photograph should be replaced in its original frame, held in identify with archival quality acid-free paper paperboard, and closed with the original nails or screws.[32]


Hand-colouring should be distinguished from
retouching, and

  • Tinted photographs are made with dyed printing papers produced by commercial manufacturers. A single overall color underlies the image and is most apparent in the highlights and mid-tones. From the 1870s albumen printing papers were available in pale pink or blueish, and from the 1890s gelatin-silvery printing-out papers in pale mauve or pink were available. At that place were other kinds of tinted papers as well. Over time such colouration oftentimes becomes very faded.
  • Toning refers to a variety of methods for altering the overall colour of the photographic image itself.[33]
    Compounds of gold, platinum or other metals are used in combination with variations in development time, temperature and other factors to produce a range of tones, including warm browns, purples, sepias, blues, olives, ruddy-browns and bluish-blacks. A well-known type of toning is sepia tone. Too adding colour to a monochromatic print, toning often improves image stability and increases contrast.
  • Retouching uses many of the same tools and techniques as paw-colouring, but with the intent of covering damage, hiding unwanted features, accentuating details, or calculation missing elements in a photographic impress. In a portrait retouching could be used to better a sitter’due south appearance, for instance, by removing facial blemishes, and in a landscape with an overexposed sky, clouds could be painted into the image. Water-colours, inks, dyes and chemical reducers are used with such tools as scalpels, pointed brushes, airbrushes and retouching pencils.
  • The crystoleum, from “crystal” + “oleum” (oil), procedure was nevertheless some other method of applying color to albumen prints.[34]
    The impress was pasted face down to the within of a concave piece of glass. In one case the adhesive (usually starch paste or gelatin) was dry, the paper backing of the impress was rubbed away, leaving only the transparent emulsion on the glass. The image was then coloured by paw. Another piece of glass was added to the dorsum and this could too be coloured by hand. Both pieces of glass were bound together creating a detailed, albeit frail, image.

Run into also


  • Moving-picture show colorization
  • Film tinting
  • Handschiegl colour process
  • Photochrom(e)
  • Photograph conservation
  • Photograph manipulation
  • Preservation (library and archival scientific discipline)
  • Selective colour



  1. ^

    Art & Architecture Thesaurus, s.five. “hand coloring”. Accessed 22 November 2010.

  2. ^

    Henisch, H.Grand. & Henisch, B. (1996).
    The painted photograph 1939-1914: Origins, techniques, aspirations. Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania Country University Printing. p. 21.

  3. ^

    Robinson, D., Herbert, Southward., Crangle, R., & Magic Lantern Gild of Great britain. (2001).
    Encyclopaedia of the magic lantern. London: Magic Lantern Lodge, p. 73-74.

  4. ^

    Henisch. (1996). p. 24.

  5. ^

    Hill, Fifty. L., & McCartey, W. (1973). A treatise on daguerreotype.
    The Literature of photography. New York: Arno Press.

  6. ^

    Microphotography and Macrophotography, in
    Towler, John (1873),
    The silverish sunbeam a practical and theoretical text-volume on sun cartoon and photographic press
    (eighth ed., enl., improved, and illustrated with numerous woodcuts ed.), New York East. & H.T. Anthony, p. 258, retrieved
    19 November

  7. ^

    Hannavy, John (xvi December 2022). “Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography”. doi:10.4324/9780203941782.

  8. ^



    Henisch. (1996). p. 201.

  9. ^

    Yokoe, F. (1997). Function 3-3. Yokoyama Matsusaburo (1838-1884). In Art, T. Thou. Grand. P. H. One thousand. (Ed.),
    The Advent of Photography in Japan. Tokyo: Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, p. 182-183.

  10. ^

    Bennett, T. (1996).
    Early Japanese images. Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle. p. 37, 39, 161.

  11. ^

    Ivankovich, Grand. & Ivankovich, S. (2005).
    Early on twentieth century hand-painted photography: Identification and value.
    Kentucky: Collector Books. p. xi.
  12. ^



    Ivankovich. (2005). p. 12

  13. ^

    Museum, George Eastman (10 June 2022). “Page Not Plant”. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved
    28 September

  14. ^

    “University of Houston Digital Library: Luis Marquez Photographs”.
    . Retrieved
    28 September

  15. ^

    Henisch. (1996). p. 65.

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    Johnston, C. (2004). Hand-coloring of nineteenth century photographs. (Primary’s dissertation). The Academy of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX.
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    Johnston. (2004). Hand-coloring of nineteenth century photographs.

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    Robinson. (2001). p. 73-74.

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    Photo-crayotype, Wikipedia.

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    “Unidentified Woman”. Retrieved
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    Library of Congress. (2007).
    Caring for your photographic collections. Accessed 22 November 2010.

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    Ritzenthaler, One thousand. 50., Vogt-O’Connor, D., & Ritzenthaler, L. (2006).
    Photographs: Archival intendance and management. Chicago: Society of American Archivists, p. 240.

  23. ^

    Ritzenthaler. (2006). p. 231.

  24. ^

    Lavédrine, B., Gandolfo, J.-P., Monod, S., & Getty Conservation Institute. (2003).
    A guide to the preventive conservation of photograph collections. Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Plant, p. 54-56.

  25. ^

    Ritzenthaler. (2006). p. 243.

  26. ^

    Fahey, M. (2002). The care and preservation of documents and works of art on paper. Accessed Nov 2010.

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    “Portrait of boyfriend in cherry shirt, smoking a clay pipage”. Retrieved
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    Burns, S. B. (1995).
    Forgotten marriage: The painted tintype & the decorative frame 1860-1910: A lost affiliate in American portraiture.
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    “The Carandini ladies, one of Australia’southward offset opera performing families, ca. 1875 / photographer Charles Hewitt (attributed)”. Retrieved
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    Ivankovich. (2005). p. 251-253.

  33. ^

    * Fine art & Architecture Thesaurus, s.v. “toning (photography)”. Accessed 22 November 2010.

  34. ^

    Ritzenthaler. (2006). p. 39.

Further reading


  • Baldwin, Yard. (1991).
    Looking at photographs: A guide to technical terms. Malibu, Calif: J. Paul Getty Museum in association with British Museum Press, p. 7, 35, 55, 58, 74, fourscore-82.
  • Jones, B. Due east. (1974).
    Encyclopedia of photography: With a new picture portfolio. New York: Arno Press, p. 132-134.
  • Lavédrine, B. (2009).
    Photographs of the by: Process and preservation. Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Found.
  • Miki, Tamon. (1997). Concerning the arrival of photography in Japan.
    The appearance of photography in Nihon. Tokyo: Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, p. xi.
  • Nadeau, L. (1994).
    Encyclopedia of printing, photographic, and photomechanial processes: A comprehensive reference to reproduction technologies : containing invaluable data on over 1500 processes : Vols. ane & 2 – A-Z. New Brunswick: Atelier Luis Nadeau, p. 33.
  • Reilly, J. M. (2009).
    Care and identification of 19th century photographs. Rochester, NY: Eastman Kodak Co.
  • Ruggles, M. (1985). Paintings on a photographic base of operations.
    Journal of the American Found for Conservation
    24(2), p. 92-103.

External links


  • Brooklyn Museum Flickr Collection
  • The George Eastman House Flickr Collection
  • The Field Museum Flickr Collection
  • Nagasaki Academy Library; Japanese Old Photographs in Bakumatsu-Meiji Period.
  • National Science and Media Museum Flickr Collection
  • Collection of mitt-colored photographs by Luis Marquez in the 1930s at the University of Houston Digital Library


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