Brief History of Infrared Film Photography

Brief History of Infrared Film Photography

Black and White Infrared Image Lake Dock Trees

Infrared Series

- Brief History of Infrared Film Photography

- Shooting Analog Infrared Images (Coming Soon)

- Infrared Film is Fragile (Coming Soon)


Creation of Infrared Film

The first infrared film was developed in 1910 by Robert Williams Wood. His experimental film required very long exposures to properly capture enough light to illuminate the images. It wasn’t until the 1930s where infrared film became available to the public when Kodak developed film emulsions that were responsive to infrared light. By 1937, more than 30 black and white infrared film stocks were available to consumers, brought to market by 5 different manufacturers.

*Note the Infrared film captures how Infrared light reflects off of surfaces, most variation is usually observed in trees and lush greens.

Infrared Pink Trees Lake River

Camouflage Detection

It wasn’t until the 1940s that color infrared was given serious consideration as a medium. Aerochrome III Infrared 1443 is a slide reversal film co-created by Kodak and the US Military. The main purpose was for aerial surveillance of war-torn areas for camouflage detection. The film is known to color the infrared light reflecting from chloroplast-rich trees / leaves a hot pink color. Since camouflage does not contain chlorophyll / reflect infrared light the same way that trees / plants do, it does not photograph as hot pink.

**Infrared light is not colored pink, it is a light on the color spectrum not visible to the human eye. The color casts come from Kodak’s scientists’ interpretation of what these color renderings may look like. Though these film stocks render beautiful science-fiction scenes as they discolor elements in the images.

Look up of street lamp infrared pink trees

The Psychedelic Movement

Infrared photography was not popularized until the psychedelic movement of the 1960s, when Kodak made color infrared stocks available on 35mm film. Not to mention, popular musicians such as Jimmy Hendrix used infrared photos for a few of his album covers.

The medium was forgotton in time due to it’s implied sense of kitsch, really only beginner photographers would use the film, the pros viewed it as an amateur’s toy.

Discontinuation

It’s unfortunate, but Kodak discontinued the production of 35mm infrared film in 2007 due to the rise of digital cameras and the decline of analog photography as a whole, resulting in less support / sales.

Dolomites Italy Mountain Infrared Snow

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