A woman stands on two skis in a snowy landscape. She is wearing a jacket, scarf, and hat, and looks over her shoulder at the camera.


Looking Back

An autochrome pays homage to one of Colorado's most important assets.

If you’ve lived in Colorado for more than a few months, you know that snowfall can happen at the most unexpected times. And it is in this important winter season that Colorado gathers one of its most vital resources: water, in the form of snow.

But we’ve also come to rely on our famously light Rocky Mountain powder for much more than sustenance. It helps fuel our tourism industry and gives us plenty of reasons to strap on snowshoes, pull a sled up a hill, or click into skis.

That’s why this image in our collection caught our attention. Created by Fred Payne Clatworthy in the 1920s, it captures the playfulness and delight many Coloradans find in a snowy winter setting.

Clatworthy spent decades capturing images like this in the Centennial State. Originally from Ohio, he pedaled through Colorado on a cross-country bike trip in 1898, and returned to make the state his home in 1902. He eventually settled in Estes Park, where he ran a photography business and other endeavors (including a short-lived laundry service).

As a photographer, Clatworthy was well known for producing autochromes, an early process for creating color images by coating a glass plate with dyed potato starches to filter light. The resulting photographs (like the one above) have an ethereal quality because the process didn’t create a natural color, but an approximation. Clatworthy’s autochromes were featured in National Geographic magazine, and an exhibition of his images helped make the case to the US Senate for expanding Rocky Mountain National Park in 1917. 

Top Image: Photo by Fred Payne Clatworthy. History Colorado 96.174.368