Of course, if you have a digital camera, you already know that. Color photography as we know it began with the invention of Kodachrome film by the Eastman Kodak company, in 1935. However, it was possible to take color pictures before that time. I remember, for example, some pictures in National Geographic from 1909 or 1910, where artists painted in the colors into black-and-white prints. A few pioneering photographers also did it by taking black-and-white pictures through three color filters (either red, green and blue or magenta, yellow and cyan) and then combining those pictures to produce one color one. The first was Louis Arthur Ducos du Hauron, a Frenchman who tried it as early as the 1860s. Here on this Wikipedia page is a picture he took of the city of Agen, France, in 1877.
But the most gorgeous and the most amazing pre-color-film color pictures have to be those taken by a Russian, Sergey Mikhaylovich Prokudin-Gorsky. Using the three filter method, he took thousands of pictures of his homeland from 1909 to 1915. That was when Russia was under the rule of the last Tsar, Nicholas II, so to us these pictures come from a lost world. The costumes of the people and the lack of visible technology will tell you these scenes took place a hundred years ago, but the colors are so fresh the pictures look like they were taken yesterday. You might even think modern actors posed in World War I-era outfits for these pictures!
For example, here is a shot Prokudin-Gorsky took of Leo Tolstoy, the famous author, in 1908, two years before his death. Who’d have thought a 101-year-old photo would look this good?
Much of Prokudin-Gorsky’s collection was lost over the years, but you can still see a good selection by clicking on the link below to go to a webpage about them. Gaze upon this eye-candy and enjoy!