Tag Archives: Abraham Lincoln

A Vibrant Past: Colorizing the Archives of History

Technology has given us an incredibly wide-ranging view of modern presidents; chief White House photographer Pete Souza’s images of Barack Obama show him in countless locations and situations, from meetings in the Oval Office to candid shots of the president eating ice cream with his daughters on vacation.

The photo archive of Abraham Lincoln, the subject of this week’s cover story, is a much smaller set due to the technological limitations of the time; most of the existing photographs of the 16th president are posed portraits, the majority of which only show Lincoln from the chest up—and all are black-and-white.

But TIME commissioned Sanna Dullaway to create a more vibrant document of Lincoln through a series of colorized photographs produced in Photoshop. After removing spots, dust and scratches from archival Lincoln photographs, Dullaway digitally colorizes the files to produce realistic and modern versions of the portraits, which look like they could have been made today.

The 22-year-old Swedish artist began colorizing images in January 2011, when she was listening to the debut album by rock band Rage Against the Machine. The self-titled album’s cover art is a black-and-white picture of a self-immolating monk taken by AP photographer Malcolm Browne. “I thought the normally fiery flames looked so dull in black and white, so I…looked for a way to make them come alive,” she says. Dullaway colorized the flames, and eventually, the entire picture. She then posted the image on Reddit, and it instantly went viral.

Since that first experiment, Dullaway has continued to colorize a wide range of historical figures, including Albert Einstein, Che Guevara and Teddy Roosevelt, each of which has generated viral buzz online. She’s also used the approach on a number of iconic photographs, such as Eddie Adams’ harrowing image of a Vietnam police officer the moment before he’s about to execute a Vietcong prisoner. In each of these renderings, Dullaway’s use of color is subtle and sophisticated—yielding images that maintain the photographic integrity of their originals, while presenting a look at how these photographs may have come out had color photography existed at the time. That nuanced ability to handle color runs in the family; Dullaway’s father is painter.

The images take anywhere from 40 minutes to three hours to produce, and for the young artist, it’s a way of bringing a contemporary perspective to older works. “History has always been black and white to me, from the World War I soldiers to the 1800s, when ladies wore grand but colorless dresses,” Dullaway says. “By colorizing, I watch the photos come alive, and suddenly the people feel more real and history becomes more tangible.”

Lincoln is at the heart of her next project, a book of Civil War images rendered in color. “I felt like it was a good place to start because the war is well documented in the Library of Congress and started roughly around the same time the camera was first used commercially,” Dullaway says. “And a war offers to chance to cover many subjects at once, and present the events of that time as our eyes would see it today—in color.”

Sanna Dullaway is a photo editor based in Sweden. See more of her work here.

150 Years Later: Picturing the Bloody Battle of Antietam

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the single bloodiest conflict ever witnessed on American soil. stevia . The Civil War’s Battle of Antietam, fought 60 miles outside of Washington D.C., resulted in 23,000 Union and Confederate casualties in just 12 hoursa statistical horror never replicated again in any conflict fought within the United States.

The Battle of Antietam marked the first time the Union substantially halted a string of Confederate advances into the North. Looking back, historians conclude the victory allowed President Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamationfundamentally altering the context of the nation’s conflict, and thus, our understanding of the battle’s importance.

Were a battle of this magnitude to erupt today, we would know about it within secondsbreaking news alerts would buzz in our pockets, anchors would interrupt our regularly scheduled programs and social media would drill down on the latest details of the rapidly evolving situation. Often, we intake news imagery before knowing all the details, and in the early hours following the conflict, we might not know the full meaning of what occurred, but we definitely know what it looked like.

One hundred and fifty years ago, on the other hand, the public viewed painfully explicit photographs with unconditioned eyesthe first time America visually confronted the carnage of its conflict.

After the Battle of Antietam, photographer Mathew Brady tacked a sign to the door of his New York City photo studio that read, simply, “The Dead of Antietam.” Inside, he exhibited the work that his assistant, Alexander Gardner, made in the aftermath of the inconceivably bloody fighting at Antietam Creek. The show drew a large crowd.

One particular viewer, Oliver Wendell Holmes, took notice of Gardner’s photographs, and in an 1863 issue of the Atlantic Monthly, penned his reaction. “It is not [for viewers] to bear witness to the fidelity of views which the truthful sunbeam has delineated in all their dread reality,” he writes. “The sight of these pictures is a commentary on civilization such as the savage might well triumph to show its missionaries.”

(Related:Bloodstains and Bullet Holes: Rare Civil War Artifacts)

Holmes writes of the dreadful accuracy with which Gardner’s photographs depict the gruesome casualties of war. Photography, less than 50 years old in 1862, was still understood by many as an extension of painting. Early critics were often split between a view of photography as objectively accurate or grossly inaccurate and incapable of matching the magnitude of the scenes it recorded (either for want of detail or of a ‘correct’ perspective).

Holmes, it seems, falls in the latter camp. As an eyewitness to the Battle of Antietam, he bristles at the idea that the public may, after viewing Gardner’s work, presume to understand the true nature of war. He mentions that the emotions came flooding back to him as a witness to the scenes captured by Gardneremotions that he would like to lock in the recesses of a far-off place. Holmes feels that this pictorial representation, while succeeding in capturing the physical setting of war, does nothing to convey the visceral nature of conflict among men that he witnessed. Yet he still acknowledges how the public is moved practically to tears as they realize the implicit significance of Gardner’s photos. Although they don’t understand what he feels as a witness, they are moved in ways they shouldn’t be afforded as mere casual viewers of recorded conflict.

The New York Times echoed Holmes’ chilly wonder at how captivating Gardner’s war photographs seemed. The paper noted that the public response to Gardner’s images was as if the photographer had “brought bodies and laid them in our dooryards and along the streets.”

“You will see hushed, reverend groups standing around these weird copies of carnage…chained by the strange spell that dwells in dead men’s eyes,” they write.

Images of today’s conflicts still arrest us just as they did in 1862. We pause, marveling at their vibrancy, viciousness and pictorial excellence. The world of 2012 allows us to “like” them, “share” them, and “re-tweet” them, hoping to pass along to others the feelings they elicit in us.

Gardner’s pictures articulated a different utility. Depicting the dead fathers and sons of a generation, his plates represent one of the first times America was forced to confront its own tragedyemotionallyimmediately after the fact.

While today we perceive and employ the Antietam photographs as memory triggers and historical records, the public of 1862 confronted them with no expectations or precedent. Unconditioned (and perhaps not yet protected by) the daily and hourly cataract of imagery that we endure today, Civil War-era viewers recognized Gardner’s images for what they were: immediate reminders of the brutal nature of mankind. And thus, on the 150th anniversary of the bloody conflict at Antietam, it’s worth pause to consider how the modern image of conflict impacts us.

Vaughn Wallace is the staff producer of LightBox.