Thomas Sutton

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Thomas Sutton

Tartan Ribbon.jpg

The world's first permanent colour photograph, taken by Thomas Sutton in 1861

This very early photograph, in the style of Thomas Sutton and taken in the 1850s, has been linked to Jersey, but where it was actually taken remains a mystery. It is just possible that the picture could show a view across Gorey Harbour from the end of the jetty to the northern end of Grouville Bay, but close examination suggests that the photograph was probably not taken in Jersey

Thomas Sutton, who opened a photographic studio in Jersey in 1847, the year after graduating from Cambridge University, is one of the most important people in the history of world photography.

He took the world's first permanent colour photograph in 1861, and invented the single lens reflex camera in the same year. He also developed the first panoramic camera with a wide-angle lens.

St Brelade studio fire

Sutton had a workshop and studio in St Brelade’s Bay from 1848 until it burnt down in about 1854. He was in partnership with the famous French photographer Louis Désiré Blanquart-Evrard, who pioneered the calotype (negative and paper print) process in France. Their business was patronised by Queen Victoria's husband Prince Albert and, according to its advertisements, was founded at the suggestion of the prince, who was a collector of photographs.

Sutton produced the first photographic publication of the island - Souvenir de Jersey - and was a prolific writer on photography. He wrote his Dictionary of Photography, the major work on the subject at the time, in 1858, and in 1867 he and photography lecturer George Dawson produced a revised edition. Sutton's calotype manual was another often reprinted and updated work that kept its popularity through at least 10 editions.


In 1859 Sutton developed the earliest panoramic camera with a wide-angle lens. The lens consisted of a glass sphere filled with water, which projected an image onto a curved plate. The camera was capable of capturing an image in a 120 degree arc.Another photographic development was the first single lens reflex camera, in 1861. He was also the photographer for James Clerk Maxwell's early experiments in color photography and in 1861 took the world's first permanent color photograph of a Tartan ribbon. Maxwell directed Sutton to take three photographs of the ribbon, through red, green, and blue filters. The plates were developed and projected on a screen by three projectors, each with the same color filter used to take its photograph. When brought together in focus, a full-color image was formed. He also worked on the development of dry photographic plates.


Louis Désiré Blanquart-Evrard was a French cloth merchant by trade, but in the 1840s became a student of photography. He studied the calotype process, and in 1847 became the first person to publish the process in France. He developed a method of bathing the paper in solutions of potassium iodide and silver nitrate rather than brushing these chemical baths on the surface. In 1850 he developed and introduced the albumen paper printing technique which became the staple process of the soon to be popular Carte de visite.

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