“It is the modern age, we are all aware of colour, why look on the past with a sepia-tinged fog? lets colour it like it should be, vibrant and fun!”
All of our Homo sapien lives we have lived life in colour, up until the invention of photography, where all of a sudden it started to be recorded in black and white, or rather sepia.
What was it about the Sepia that people loved so much?
The negatives and plates and various other media that captured the images mainly showed a grey and black and white image. One way or another these were made into positive images and were more often than not tinted sepia!
It seemed right from the beginning of photographic time, we were doctoring our images to make them brown. Why? The yellow-brown seems to lift the image from the page and warm it up giving a more pleasing look. I’ve tested this and added my own version, warming the tones and by adding a blue tint to the blacks and a warm tint to the white. This does lift the image from the page. All brown I’m not so sure about.
Photos that had once turned sepia by themselves were now on trend. Originally they have turned sepia through heavy tobacco smoke, a wood fire, a wood-burning oven or candle smoke. Other factors were UV damage from sunlight and dirt and grime and dust from a pre-vacuum cleaner home. But the desire for sepia meant photographers actively tinted photo’s this colour.
Question. So should we change all the old photos we restore to black and white to be authentic? Or should we colour them all to be accurate?
I think we should colour all the old photos as we never lived in black and white and we certainly did not live in sepia! Colouring them would require research and access to archives of artefacts, clothing and paints, traditional colours and colour pallets. Location, geology and race. It would educate many about how colourful life was and then we didn’t live in black and white. Granted there were some very dark times, where everything could have looked very brown during the industrial revolution but even there was still colour!
I am not saying for a moment do we add any old colours to photos but take our time to get things right. If we don’t know what colour something should be should we guess? Sure! but an educated one. Take paints for example. We have artefacts and know the history of paints so why not use this information to guess as best as we can. We can then build up a picture of colour as it could have been. Will it be 100% accurate, no, but it will be close.
It is the modern age, we are all aware of colour, why look on the past with a sepia-tinged fog? lets colour it like it should be, vibrant and fun!