Men leaving a mosque in Tunis, Tunisia circa 1899. Captured using a photolithography method known as a photochrom, it was an early way to create color stills from a camera.
Resting Bedouins at the Grand Pyramid, Cairo, Egypt. Helena Zinkham of the Library of Congress, where these rare photochroms are kept, says the main market for these high quality images was European tourists.
The harbor and admiralty, Algiers, Algeria. The printing process of photochroms was efficient and could produce hundreds of thousands of copies from a single negative. A 7x9 inch photochrom cost approximately 35 cents at the turn of the 20th century.
Bridge in Constantine, Algeria. The photochrom process, invented 1890, was soon patented by companies around Europe and the US. It's thought most of the photochroms from this period in North Africa were taken by Europeans, although many authors are unknown today.
The label on this photochrom describes the subjects as "Distinguished Moorish women" in Algiers. Who does and doesn't appear in these images is an important discussion point, says Charlotte Chopin, expert on colonial Algeria.
The cathedral, Carthage, Tunisia. Swathes of North Africa were under colonial occupation during the late 19th and early 20th century, with France and Britain holding sway over much of the region.
A mosque in, Kairwan, Tunisia. Chopin says that the photochroms show a tale of two cities, with indigenous and colonial classes rarely meeting.
View from Paris Hotel, Tunis. Architecture and indigenous people were both thrown into relief with the newly constructed European enclaves popping up across North Africa
The Souc-el-Trouk, Tunis. Together, these images amount largely to an Orientalized, exotic version of North Africa appealing to tourists and travelers.
Of course Europeans and Arab communities did interact, and were not always in friction. Madame Luce's School of Arab Embroidery in Algiers taught local Muslim girls. Frenchwoman Luce and her granddaughters "were very interested in preserving the traditional Algerian embroidery, which had been disrupted by the French occupation," says Arden Alexander of the Library of Congress.
The photographers behind the images of Luce's school were identified by academic Rebecca Rogers as Jan Geiser and Arnold Vollenweider, two Swiss men. They publicized the school, which already had famous visitors including the Queen of Portugal.
The Palace of Justice, Tangier, Morocco. Although not yet a colony at the time in which this photocrhom was taken, Morocco was nonetheless heavily influenced by Europeans, France and Spain later enforcing a protectorate.
The great mosque in Algiers. Chopin says the peace and stillness of many of the photochroms belies much of the violence of colonial rule, providing the consumer with a romanticized perspective.
Sailboat on the River Nile, Cairo, Egypt. The era of the photochrom coincided with an era of great expansion within the travel industry. It became easier to cross oceans and tour other continents, and Europeans often visited North Africa to escape the pollution of cities across the Mediterranean Sea.
Woman and child on the terrace, Algiers. Despite depicting local people in their own environments, the colonial eye keeps "control of the frame," says Chopin.
Arab juggler, Algiers. The era of the photochrom in Europe was over by the end of the First World War, as technology and commerce were both heavily disrupted. Cameras had advanced and public ownership had increased. Meanwhile some North African nations were beginning their journeys away from colonialism toward independence. These photochroms were already relics of a past epoch.