The First Natural Color Photo Published In National Geographic Was Of What?
Answer: A Flower Garden
Starting in 1910, National Geographic began experimenting with “color” photographs by publishing a series of black and white photos, of locations in Asia, that had been hand-tinted. While these hand-tinted photographs may have appeared to the reader as the first color photos to grace the pages of the long running magazine, the first photos captured with actual color film didn’t appear until 1914.
The photograph in question was of a flower garden in Ghent, Belgium, titled “A Flower Garden in Ghent” and taken by Paul G. Guillumette. The photo wasn’t even printed in relation to any article or editorial in the magazine, but simply as a show of technical achievement. For you see, color photography was a scant seven years old at the time, and most National Geographic readers would have never seen an actual color photograph before.
Although the first color photograph graced the pages in 1914, National Geographic would take a slow approach to introducing color into the magazine (as early color photography processes were finnicky, time consuming, and expensive). The first edition of National Geographic to feature cover-to-cover color photographs wouldn’t hit the news stands until February of 1962; it was the first major American publication to print an all-color magazine.
Image by Paul G. Guillumette, courtesy of National Geographic.