Autochrome stereoviews of the Great War – part I

Less than one-thousandth of the images from the First World War were 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 autochrome stereoviews.

The only photographer known by name for his autochrome stereoviews with war scenes is the German photographer Hans Hildenbrand. He was from 1915, with permission of the German army, active as an independent photographer on the western front in France. Reproductions of his autochromes are 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 moves to the battlefields of Alsace where he also produces postcards and paper card stereoviews[2].

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 shot by officers.

6x13cm autochrome of the great war

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


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