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Joshua House

4 Years Ago


Most of us are familiar with orotone, or curt-tone, are we not? Photos that have a similar feel visually to Edward Curtis photo development style? How is it when I search for Orotone I am the only one using it as a keyword, not even some spammer?

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Brian Wallace

4 Years Ago

Quite often, some of the adjectives I come across on this site forces me to realize just how out of touch I've been and/or ignorant I am when it comes to art and it's terminology. Sadly, I admit and am embarrassed to say I had never heard of the term Orotone, or it has been tucked away neatly in my subconscious until now. If this becomes similar to other times when I become aware of a term that I'm not used to hearing, then I will start hearing it frequently everywhere for a while. Granted, I am a simple country boy who had to begin a long career that just happened to be in the big city, but it was not in any way remotely affiliated with art or the art world (or more specifically in this case, a specific treatment of film photography which died out in the 1970s). An orotone is a type of photographic print that is printed on glass and backed with a gold colored powder that is mixed with banana oil (iso-amyl acetate). Orotones first appeared in the teens of the 20th century and were made as late as the early 1970s by the Curtis studio.

With that said, perhaps (speaking strictly as a layman) I might suggest the term "sepia" as a much more familiar yet general description of the monotone hues I see in the images above and not related to the specific treatment of film to produce a similar effect. Since today, modern technology has transformed processes into a digital world, I'm guessing the majority of photographers on this sight are probably less familiar with a term such as "Orotone" but, I could be wrong. :)


Dan Carmichael

4 Years Ago

I have been a photographer for many years - film thru digital. I have never heard the word orotone. Buyers may not have either. That's why you don't see it used heavily as a keyword.

Every heard of sepia? Buyers have also. They may use it as a search word. That's why many images use it as a keyword.


Joshua House

4 Years Ago

I'm surprised that this is not a widely known term. I'm a self trained photographer as well, but came across it years ago. Perhaps it's due to working with anthropologists who tend to have very strong views about Curtis' work. Yes, sepia is a more widely known term, but I'm still surprised it is completely unknown.


I actually own a few pieces of vintage, orotone work, but would never use the word to describe a photo printed on paper. I've never thought of using it as a search term either, unless I were actually looking for a vintage, glass print.

The word 'Orotone' is very specific to the actual process, which may be why it's not commonly found as a tag.


Joshua House

4 Years Ago

Now that is a very good point Wendy. These are of course not actually done in the orotone process. Neither of course are many if not most of the "sepia" images for sale on here which at one time was also a physical way of developing. It's digital. If anyone was under the impression I was using actual gold to produce this I'm sorry.


Oooh, but wouldn't you like too?

I once ate a piece of wedding cake dusted with gold . . . which is totally off-topic. :-)

EDIT -- Oops! Before going off-topic (thinking of cake does that to me), I meant to mention that sepia has become known as a color as well as a process. That's probably why it's more commonly used by artists and potential buyers. It's a term the general public is familiar with.


Joshua House

4 Years Ago

I'd love to try it. Although I'm not sure that would be my priority if I had that much gold dust on hand.


Never heard of it :| Thanks for making my library of terms larger Joshua :)


Joshua House

4 Years Ago

You're welcome Beth.

Since not many people are familiar with the orotone form, I suppose not many are familiar with Edwin Curtis either.

The Smithsonian gives a decent overview of who he was, his work, and why his depiction of Natives has become seen as negative.

This shows an example (many of others are online as well) of his style in general.$fcp16025&displayProfile=1&dir=ammem&itemLink=D?curt:4:./temp/~ammem_jIjY::


Sandra Bronstein

4 Years Ago

You have a comrade here... as an admirer and collector of Curtis orotones and goldtones, I know exactly how you feel! There are a couple of artists on FAA who actually sell repros of Curtis' work.


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