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We don’t make a habit of publishing Internet-based articles, but we felt that this one had special merit. Coincidently, the photos revealed, to many who didn’t already know, that two of the photographer’s subjects had red hair.

Harry Warnecke utilized the carbro process to make his colour photos, including these shots of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

Laurel and Hardy Real Colour

Harry Warnecke / New York Daily News

In the 1930s, the New York Daily News cameraman revolutionized the art of celebrity portraits by producing colour images of famous actors, comedians, athletes, politicians and military leaders.
Despite ushering in a new age of colour photography, Warnecke’s work was basically forgotten after his death. But the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., compiled 24 of his celebrity portraits from the 1930s to the 1950s, which were on display as part of the “In Vibrant Colour: Vintage Celebrity Portraits From the Harry Warnecke Studio” exhibition.
Utilizing the first practical method for colour photography, called the tri-colour carbro process, Warnecke’s work for the Daily News Sunday Magazine included portraits of luminaries like Lucille Ball, Jackie Robinson, Laurel and Hardy, and Generals Eisenhower and Patton.
As the exhibit explains, “Warnecke designed and built a one-shot camera that yielded the red, blue and green separations needed for colour reproduction.” Perhaps more impressive than the portraits he snapped with his one-shot camera is that Warnecke convinced the newspaper to invest in expensive technology and build him a studio fit to produce his labour-intensive colour photography.
After all, this was a time when black and white was the norm, not only for newspapers but for movies and magazines as well. And the tri-colour carbro process was both complicated and rare.
“This was really a groundbreaking move at the time,” says Shumard. “Warnecke believed that the addition of a brilliant colour photograph of a celebrity would really be a novelty and increase sales. “And, indeed, it did boost circulation because the colour photographs brought these iconic figures alive in a way that black and white couldn’t.”

Lucille Ball in color

Warnecke revealed Lucille Ball's legendary red hair in all its glory.


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