Vintage color postcards capture life in 19th century Tunisia


These stunningly colorful postcards from Tunisia depict its vibrant streets, spectacular architecture and the daily lives of Tunisians. Created in 1899, postcards were printed using the popular photochrome technology invented by Swiss printers in the 1880s.

During this time Tunisia was occupied by the French in 1881 and administered as a protectorate recognizing the nominal authority of local government. Europeans made up half the population of Tunis at one time.

The city was rapidly redeveloped as French-built new boulevards, neighborhoods and infrastructure split into a traditional Arab-populated medina and a new quarter populated by immigrants.

Postcards show touches of French influence with the nearly finished Cathedral of St. Louis visible in the background of an image. Built in the Byzantine-Moorish style, this Roman Catholic cathedral required the permission of the Gulf of Tunis for the French console to begin construction.

Other images show the grand quarters of the Tunisian monarchy, a stark contrast to the painted, yet vibrant, street life. People gather in markets and cafes or go to mosques. Bedouin nomads set up camp and a traveling cook sells his wares on the street.

The photochrome process was precise, slow, meticulous, and the results could be breathtaking, or perhaps mediocre, or even terrifying. The skill of the photographer mattered, but the success of color prints depended more on the skill of the craftsmen who worked on the photochrome.

Much also depends on the availability of detailed information about the original color of the scene being photographed. The person behind the camera had to name the colors in their subject, record them accurately, and provide enough context so that production workers could recreate what the photographer saw.

On occasions when they lacked sufficient information, workers used their own judgment and sometimes, whatever the photographer wrote, they added color values ​​and shading that they thought was right.

Often they worked from hand-dyed versions of black-and-white prints and the artists who did the color themselves could use artistic license to give them an eye-catching result.

The photochromes themselves could be printed on a large scale as cheap postcards (and there were millions of penny-stamped cards at the time) or they could be produced as large high-resolution prints.

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.