Born today, August 15, 1896, Paul Outerbridge gained fame for his use of color photographs, an unexplored medium in the early twentieth century, and for his erotic nudes that were so scandalous for the era that they couldn’t be exhibited. Interestingly he was a student of the Clarence White school of photography that White taught at Columbia University, and I say interestingly because White’s work was 180° in contrast to that of his student.
Outerbridge was best known, at this time, for his commercial work and art, as well as his explorations into the area of color photography using the tri-color carbro process, in which the image consists of pigmented gelatin, as opposed to silver, or other metallic particles, suspended in a uniform layer of gelatin. The acceptance of his work ran contrary to the art world’s rule about color photography – that color photographs were vulgar exercises in the puerile.
Outerbridge’s publications of Photographing in Color, and his numerous articles on color photography in U. S. camera Magazine, established him as the authority on color printing during the Depression years.
His work, in vivid color, of nudes and fetish images did not find the audience that his other work did, and the ensuing scandal drove him out of the commercial photography business. The process he had mastered would be replaced by the Kodachrome dye transfer process made famous, and acceptable to the art world, by William Eggleston. Despite the showings of his work in major galleries, the magazine articles, even the scandals, Outerbridge died in relative obscurity in 1958.
(WARNING: some of these images almost contain nudity but have been “edited” to fit Facebook’s standards.)
(It would seem that poor Outerbridge is still losing his battle with the censors.)