The ability to capture light stunned the world when the process was first exhibited in 1839, although people were initially perplexed by the absence of colour. It took almost a century for Kodak to solve this problem adequately, with the release of Kodachrome in 1935. Even then, colour film was initially shunned by the photographic community. Both slow and expensive, it was used primarily in advertising and big-budget productions – nothing of artistic merit.

Black and white are the colours of photography

Robert Frank

The professionals of the day had already made great careers in black and white photography, so when colour became more widely available in the late 1960s, many were reluctant and slow-to-adopt or outright dismissive. Black and white was perceived as the only way to be taken seriously as a photographer. Only a decade later, however, its use was ubiquitous.

This website examines this journey, looking first at early photographic techniques and their pioneers, but focusing mainly on the emergence of colour photography in a social, cultural and historical context.

Joel Meyerowitz