Autochrome stereoviews of the Great War – part I

Less than one-thousandth of the images from the First World War are colour images[1]. Most were produced by the photography unit of the French army, La Section Photographique et Cinématographique de l’Armée (SPCA). Photographers like Paul Castelnau, Fernand Cuville and Albert Samama Chikli made images by using the autochrome colour process at various locations of the front, but the archives of the French army don’t contain any autochrome stereoviews.

Autochrome Verdun
Autochrome Verdun

The only photographer known by name for his autochrome stereoviews with war scenes is the German photographer Hans Hildenbrand. He was, with permission of the German army, from 1915 active as an independent photographer on the western front in France. Reproductions of his autochromes were published as postcards and paper card stereoviews. His stereoviews were called Chromoplast bilder. Two sets of six color stereoviews of the Champagne front exist. Later he moved to the battlefields of Alsace where he also produced postcards and paper card stereoviews[2].

Stereo autochrome from the First World War

All other autochrome stereoviews of the Great War were made by amateur photographers whose names remain unknown. Due to the higher costs of autochrome plates, it can be assumed that they were mainly made by officers.

This collection contains three 6x13cm autochrome stereoviews from an unknown photographer. They show images of a French medical unit where the photographer was probably enlisted. The stereoviews contain a small metal strip on top. It shows that the owner used a Planox Stéréoscope Magnétique to view the images. This stereoscope uses magnets to bring the stereoviews in viewing position and requires metal strips to be attached to the slides.

The slides don’t contain numbers or titles. An included handwritten note reads:

Autochromes pendant la guerre 1915 – 1917
Juin 16 – à Verdun

401 – Avril 16 – Trou Bricot en Champagne
431 – Mai 16 – à Mourmelon

Stereo autochrome from the First World War


  1. Walther, Peter. The First World War in Colour, 2014, p.16
  2. De kleurenfotografie van Hans Hildenbrand, 2012. – via:
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