Colorized History—black and white photos startlingly transformed

Posted on September 9, 2013. Filed under: What History is For | Tags: |

We’ve all seen badly touched-up black and white photos, we’re all used to seeing the past in black and white photos. Now we must all go to Colorized History and experience the beyond eerie impact of expertly, impeccably colorized photos from as early as the Civil War. It is just startling to see a Civil War general looking like he just had his picture taken for Facebook:

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This is General Gersham Mott, photographed originally by Mathew Brady, colorized by Mads Madsen.

Here is Theodore Roosevelt, looking like he will walk toward you any second:

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Seeing Lincoln in color is seeing him anew:

 

And somehow this sailor waiting with his family to sail off to duty in 1927 is equally immediate:

Not everyone is on board, of course; there are those who call the whole idea of colorizing a “charming lie”, and some just prefer the “classic” (I.e., what you are used to seeing) black and white. But it’s clear that once we had color film, black and white photographs that had been the ultimate in realism took on an “art” status that was consciously used to turn an ordinary image into something stylized. And so we began to see all black and white photos as stylized, classic, artistic—instead of just using the technology of their time to get a picture of someone. If people could have used color film in the 1800s they would have—we know that from all the daguerrotypes that people hand-colored in with paint to make them more realistic:

 Viewing history in black and white is a way of removing it from the realm of real life—it transforms real people into ideas. We like Colorized History because it is a forceful reminder that human beings who look like us made history.

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