The internet is full of digitally coloured historic photos these days, like its a new trend! Adding colour to black and white photos has been around since photos were made. Changing it up to digital just makes the process easier and more precise.
You may have seen WW1 photos in the spotlight and famous faces in digitally coloured images splashed around the internet, in social media streams and on blogs as everyone fights to report the “latest trend”. In 1907 the first commercially available colour photography came about but it wasn’t until 1958 that the first rolls of 35mm colour film arrived. Coloured photos have been around even before 1907 but in various forms of hand colouring. Dyes and inks and colour washes were used to add colour to paper prints and before that “lantern slides” were made. In the 1840s, William and Frederick Langenheim, daguerreotypists in Philadelphia, first used a glass plate negative to print onto another sheet of glass, thus creating a transparent positive image that could be projected. These could also be painted with dyes to make them into colour images and projected.
So you see colour in photography has been around longer than you might think. It is only us barmy photo restoration types and those with the gift of a good eye and colour observation that colour these old photos. I like to tackle the less well-known images. I think that these old images deserve a second chance in colour. If my work draws attention to otherwise unnoticed images then that’s all I ask. Sure it would be great to get recognized for producing good work but we all strive for that, don’t we?
There are many artists around colouring old photos but I hope my take on the subject shows another side. I’m not trying to glorify the horrors of war or jump on the bandwagon of famous faces getting the web hits. This is everyday life in colour! I hope you like and please feel free to comment.
I’ve found other images of the docks labelled 1907 and the look similar in their busy market atmosphere. In the image below they seem to stop and stare at the camera, perhaps even gather around for a closer look at the photographer. Less natural than the one I coloured but it gives a further sense of the occasion.
The docks must have been a noisy place to work. Those carts, horses, labourers shouting to one another as the loaded, foremen shouting to the labourers, ships and engine noise. The air looks reasonably clear though so It couldn’t have been all that bad. Maybe it was a chance to change jobs to work on a ship or just fill up on bananas as this chap is doing here!
You can visit these image in super high-resolution detail on the library of Congress website and maybe you can find some interesting candid moments in these images. If you do let me know and ill include it here in the blog! For more of the procedures and techniques of colouring see our main page on colouring a black and white photo.