Photoglob Zürich, Barque on Lake Geneva, 1896

Photograph of a Barque on Lake Geneva, Photoglob Zürich (P.Z.), 1896
Photochrom®, 22 x 16.5 cm © Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne

Original image and audiodescription guide

This photograph, produced in 1896, is from the genre of landscape photography. It is also an historical photograph documenting Lake Geneva in the region of the canton of Vaud.

Measuring 22 by 16.5 centimetres, this photograph features a barque on the sparkling blue lake. The central subject is a traditional 19th century sailing vessel with a double mast and lateen sails. The ship’s two tall triangular sails, slightly browned by catechu and use, jut toward the sky. The first boom, situated at the boat’s central line, is tall and points straight upward. The second boom, ever so slightly billowing in the wind, is at a 45 degree angle and points over the front of the ship almost as to show the direction the vessel is heading. The front of the vessel is pointing toward the left side of the photograph and appears to be slowly advancing.

Two male figures stand upright on the deck of the boat, both holding a long pole in their hands. One of the male figures wears a white shirt, dark pants and a dark hat. The other male figure appears younger, sporting a dark waistcoat over his white shirt and dark pants. They appear to be using the poles to manoeuvre the boat in the shallow waters close to the shore. In the forefront of the image, on the right bottom corner of the photograph, a small portion of a shoreline is shown. This small bit of sandy and rocky land allows us to imagine the vantage point of the photographer. Behind the boat, in the distance, are several snow-capped mountains. Above the mountains, a layer of clouds leads us to a clear blue sky.

The photograph, which served as a postcard, is believed to have been taken on or near the shores of Lausanne. Thus, the mountains in the background are the French Alps located across the lake from this part of Switzerland. This type of sailing vessel was specially designed for transport of heavy raw materials, notably to bring large stones from the quarries of Meillerie in Haute Savoie, France to Switzerland. The French quarries across the lake from the Vaudois shoreline provided the stones that built Lausanne and Geneva in the 19th century. This commerce continues to exist today only for the transport of stones.

Barque on Lake Geneva is a colour image dating from the end of the 19th century, a time when colour photography did not exist. The process for producing this colorized image is called Photochrom. Invented by the Swiss company Orell Füssli in Zurich in the 1880’s, the Photochrom process was mainly used for printing postcards. This technique produces colorized images from black and white photographic negatives using lithographic printing plates. In other words, ink of variable colours is placed on a lithographic plate with a light-sensitive surface. Each plate used corresponds to one colour which is manually retouched in order to produce the final colorized image.

In 1895, the company Photochrom was renamed Photoglob. This company, specialised in the postcard industry, still exists today.

Tactile image for download

In front of you is a tactile representation which is on a sheet measured 21,8 by 27,7 cm. The image itself is contained in a large square so as you begin to orient yourself to the image, please feel the large square outline. To begin viewing the picture, locate the raised circle in the lower right hand of the image. It feels like a puffed circular area.

Directly above the marking, you will feel small dots which extend to the left and right with sharp pointed inverted V shapes. This area of the image is the very rocky plane right set in the lower right corner of this image of a boat sailing in front of a vast mountain backdrop. As you move into the lower part of the picture you will notice small wavy lines that take up about one third of the lower part of the enclosed picture. These markings signify the water ripples on which in the center of the picture you will find the subject matter, a sailing boat with 2 men standing on board looking out toward the viewer.

As you move into the center of the image, you will see the boat outlined in a thicker line with horizontal lines inside the boat itself. There are 2 extending sails thinly outlined with vertical lines inside and 2 thicker lines that represent the poles. The sail boat's sails are extending upward to the top of the image as are the thicker poles. To the left and right of the sails and directly above the boat there are a series of dashed lines which represent the horizon line with vast and high mountains in the background of the image. The mountains themselves are represented with small dots and extend to the right and left side of the image and take up a large portion of the middle of the image.