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Optical Profile
CREDIT: Rachel Saunders & Craig J Williams, University of Manchester

Leaders in their field - Amélie Guillot-Saguez

A thought experiment - what would she do now?

Cartes-de-visite is an early example of photography for the masses and also enabled many photographers to build a business out of Photography. Family portraiture figured highly in this and the photographer was not the only one gaining business benefit - hand colourists played their part too. Photography as a business was not just about the taking of a photograph, even then. I have facilitated millions of portraits in identity documents but only taken one or two, for myself and family.

On a visit to Washington DC I came across the work of Amélie Guillot-Saguez. She was working in photography around 1850 and was trained as a painter. Unusually for the time Guillot-Saguez was making and colouring photographs and I found her work fascinating. I believe she was also one of the first women to own a Daguerreotype studio, active in Paris by 1844. She published a manual on the process and by 1849 was recognised in French industry for her work. Unable to find any of her work that is ethically available to share I recommend a study of this image in the National Gallery of Art collection in Washington DC.

We are now used to colour photography but colouring of monochrome images lives on, either as illustration or art. So now to the thought experiment - what would someone of the talents of Guillot-Saguez do now? Perhaps adding colour to illustrate astrophotography like Robert Gendler. I like to think of her as using colour to illustrate concepts visually, aiding understanding and bridging that art science divide.

And so to the image, from one of my technical papers on printing together with colleagues at the University of Manchester. Here colour was used to illustrate depth in a textured image with a pallet chosen by software. Would Guillot-Saguez illustrate it differently?