Is it arguable that the visual record of history presents a separation factor for the audience? That was the question I asked myself a couple of years ago. I saw a separation factor in monochrome photographs, particularly around my family home. Grandparents and great grandparents all documented but locked in sun-faded black and white. I told myself their world was in color too. I looked into what I would need in order to realize any given image in color once again. Essentially I taught myself a new skill and bought the equipment to realize it. The right software, a digital stylus, and patience; the rest is history (pardon the pun). After a few months and a major learning curve, I found myself able to contend with complexity in photography. That's when the project really began.

Montpelier Vermont 1850 a 166-year-old daguerreotype.

ca 1890. William 'Buffalo Bill' Cody, purported to have killed 4,282 American bison in eighteen months.

Photographs like the one above take a very long time to color faithfully; there are way points within any given monochromatic image that reveal hints at what original colors existed. Grey scale equates to corresponding color. It takes some time to learn, but software helps in that search. You spend that time studying every detail within a scene, you ask yourself a lot of questions about the subject you are both coloring and essentially studying. You may even ask questions of yourself, particularly when working on photographs related to hardship and conflict.

c.a 1893. Ellis Island immigrant. An Italian girl with a U.S coin.

July 1936. South Dakota drought refugees photographed in Montana. 

Some photographs simply present an artistic puzzle; they tell stories of the creatives in art history. Maud was a great example of that:

Maud Wagner 1882. The famous tattooed lady.

There are millions upon millions of monochrome photographs in this world, and some of them are incredibly eye catching. In particular, I looked towards documentary photography as the platform for my work. I invented a name for this project and called it 'my colorful past'. It's a play on words, but where the subject matter is concerned, it's fitting.

1862 and the 71st infantry,  Illinois. This was an incredibly well taken glass plate during the Civil War.

 1906 Washington State loggers with axes and a crosscut saw after felling a giant spruce. 

1899. Oscar 'Claude' Monet is the founder of French impressionist painting.

Colorizing is not easy. Accuracy is not a myth and it takes time, often more than several hours to realize any given photograph. Through colorizing dozens of pieces I have found myself immersed in a world of patience that forces me to explore history, a subject I did not enjoy and failed at exam level as a teenager. I have rediscovered history on my own terms and I think the visual aspect has lent well to a new found enjoyment of the subject.

Documentary photography as part of this project has so far encompassed war, the arts, criminal, and scientific history. Some of the work undertaken has been nothing short of complex. The origins of computing have been documented well over the decades, so I looked to colorize some of the lesser known history. They would also present the greatest puzzle of all in terms of patience.

1952 and the first installation of The UNIVAC I (Universal Automatic Computer I) The first commercial computer produced in the United States. 

Mission Control also lent well to the art of colorization, this was very complex to realize faithfully. 

1970. Commander James A Lovell of Apollo 13 on screen at NASA Mission Control, lead by Flight Director Eugene Kranz.

A lot of people ask what is the process in order to bring a monochrome image into the color spectrum. I put a short video together that demonstrates a faithful colorization. 

The subject in question is a large figure in modern criminal history. This is a time-lapsed colorization of Salvatore 'Lucky' Lucania. The photograph was taken in 1936. He was instrumental in the development of the National Crime Syndicate in the United States.


You can see a whole lot more by visiting mycolorfulpast on facebook.