Color Film Was Initially Just For Photographing White People

Color photography was revolutionary when it was introduced in the first half of the 20th century. But that doesn't mean it was perfect. The major complaint with Kodak's new technology had to do with the "Shirley card." This card was the image of a light-skinned woman, presumably named Shirley, off which the color balance of the photos were based. The chemicals in the film that developed brown, yellow, and redder skin tones were were simply left out. It wasn't until 1996 that Kodak's Gold Max film was introduced to be able to accurately develop different darker skin tones.

Key Facts In This Video

  1. Colors in color photography from the 1940s to 1996 were based on the skin tone of a white woman on Kodak's "Shirley card." 00:04

  2. People in the 1970s photographing furniture complained that the color film didn't show big differences between different dark woods. 01:29

  3. In 2009, there were claims stating that facial recognition software didn't pick up non-white skin tones. 03:08

Written by Curiosity Staff January 8, 2016

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