Spectacular color photos of Constantinople, 1890

These rare color scenes of the Ottoman Empire's capital (then known as Constantinople) in the late 19th century were produced using the photochrome process. The technique applies layers of artificial color to a black and white image with surprisingly realistic results.

In a way, these are the declining days of the Ottoman Empire in color. Scenes include the Bayazit Mosque, Yeni Cami, the fountain of Sultan Ahmet III, the Galata Bridge, the Eyup cemetery, the gates of the Ministry of War, the Golden Horn and the people living in the city. Forty years later in 1930, Constantinople would be officially renamed Istanbul.

Photochrome was developed in the 1880s by an employee of a Swiss printing company and involves coating a lithographic limestone tablet with a photosensitizing emulsion and exposing it to light under a photo negative. Exposure causes the emulsion to harden in proportion to the tone of the negative, creating a definite lithographic image on the stone.

Additional litho stones are produced for each color used in the final color image. A single color postcard may require more than a dozen different colored stones.

The end product of a painstaking process is color images with an astonishing degree of accuracy, especially during the era when true color photography was in its infancy.

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