It’s easy to lose time clicking through the Library of Congress photochrome—or photochrom—collection.
Each image has a strangely volumetric beauty, enhanced by subtle depths of shade, that results from a development and printing process that also produced these otherworldly intensities of color.
Houses, castles, mountains, rivers, ruins.
Utterly mundane subjects seem hallucinatory, like stills from an old animated film—
—or even hand-colored illustrations from a fairy tale.
Many look like paintings.
Purely in the interests of weekend eye-candy, I just thought I’d post a bunch here.
I could look at these all day—these old streets and roofscapes, honey-colored rocks and even brilliant white robes glowing with sunlight.
It’s also interesting to watch as small moments of modernity pop-up in the landscape, like funiculars or—in other images not included here—cable railways, train stations, and steamships.
In other cases, it’s just the pure bulk of masonry and its interaction with sunlight that remains so visually compelling, where looking at the city almost meant looking at a geological formation, an artificial mountain chain that you knew was filled with rooms and hallways waiting to be explored.
Finally, these old, looming roof profiles from buildings in Germany are spectacular.
Architects and engineers today should spend more time thinking about roofs, as spaces that can be inhabited, not merely as minimal surfaces used for no other purpose than to cover another space.
Roofs should be labyrinths you can walk through and get lost within. Roofs should have dimension; they should have windows and rooms. They should be spaces in their own right, not just lines where other spaces end.
In any case, last but not least, here are some still-standing “bridge houses” in Bad Kreuznach, Germany.
See many, many, many more photochrom prints over at the Library of Congress.