In the 17th century Isaac Newton demonstrated that white light consists of the superposition of different wavelengths visible as colour on a screen. How colour was perceived by a human observer was explained by the work of Thomas Young and Hermann von Helmholtz who identified three cones in the human eye as responsible for colour perception. James Clerk Maxwell succeeded in capturing colour on black and white film by taking photographs through RGB filters and then projecting the positive slides through the same filters again. On white paper the RGB recordings are usually translated into CMYK prints. We will discuss the difficulties in capturing and reproducing true colour using as an example completely analogue photographic methods as used by Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky in the early 20th century and showing how colour perception is affected by the recording method, development of the film, the spectrum of the printing inks and the colour of the substrate.
Klein, S., & Menger, F. (2020, January). How to print a rainbow. Presented at Dana Research Centre Seminar Series, London