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The digital revolution puts color back into the past

An actual color photo of 1950s Havana

Happy holidays! With the advent of higher digital resolutions and more affordable access to digital editing technology, photography has become one of the most degraded and the most elevated artistic places for creativity. One of the great leaps in digital technology has been the ability to restore old photography. Being able to clean up scratched or eroded negatives or prints, ripped memories in picture books has never been easier. In line with restoration have come various creative folks and businesses that use their powers to colorize old black-and-white imagery.

One Twitter account I like to look at to get away from some of the noise of the political sphere is “Colorized pics.” The account pulls from digital creator accounts that focus on colorizing like sebcolorisation, Marina Amaral, pixelperfectrestorations, melodie_colors_the_past, and Cassowary Colorizations.

Since the photos go back to the earliest photo imagery from the late 1800s, many of the images include historical figures and war photography. I am of two minds about colorizing work that was created knowing it would be produced in black-and-white, but there is something fun and revitalizing about seeing still imagery from the past brought to color. It gives our brains a chance to break out of the structures we have all built up over the years of seeing old photos only in black-and-white.

Different colorists take different liberties with how they go about coloring. Some use more saturation, while others rely on more muted tones. Some like to highlight eyes or aspects of images, apply different levels of skin tone, makeup, and highlights. In any event, I hope you enjoy!


November 2022