Tag Archives: Immolating

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.

apertureWEEK: Online Photography Reading Shortlist

Aperture aggregates the best posts from this past week in the photography blogosphere.

  • Time magazine’s Lightbox features Manish Swarup’s photograph of a Tibetan exile self-immolating during a demonstration in New Delhi in their Pictures of the Week, reminding of Malcolm Brown’s iconic image of a Buddhist monk who set himself aflame in protest in 1963, and the photojournalistic ethical issues that go with it.
  • Conscientious explores the challenges of still portraiture and points to a new study published by the British Psychology Society which finds that “the same people are rated as more attractive in videos than in static images taken from those videos.”
  • NPR’s The Picture Show features “A Lifetime of Photos in a Little Email Retrospective,” images by “somewhat hermetic” Dennis Darling who relishes “staying under most radar” and rarely publishes or exhibits his work for other than those on his small email chain.
  • The New Yorker‘s Photobooth commemorates Edward Steichen’s would-be 130th birthday with a slideshow of the seminal photographer’s images published in their magazine across the years.  Several limited edition prints from his early work are available at Aperture.
  • “Taking a photograph is a response… it’s a pre-rational response, it’s an intuitive emotional response, it’s spontaneous, it’s immediate,” says Alex Webb of The Suffering of Light in Part 4 of 6 of the Q&A  session with Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb by David Chickey of Radius Books at The National Museum Of Singapore on March 9, 2012, now all posted on Invisible Photographer Asia.
  • APhotoEditor suggests, “Perhaps Most Photographers Don’t Understand the Value of Usage,” posting a reader-submitted story in which an “ex-student lied about having [her] permission and gave the image to the college, which then used the image on a billboard advertisement that wraps around a 20 story building on a very busy road in the city.” How was this resolved and did she get paid?
  • Ansel AdamsHenri Cartier BressonRobert FrankStephen ShoreNan GoldinWilliam EgglestonAlec SothDiane Arbus are all photographers you should… IGNORE? That’s according to Bryan Formhals’ brash OpEd piece on LPV Magazine “10 Oeuvres Aspiring Photographers Should Ignore.”  Wired and the Click got a kick out of the post, which was inspired by “The 10 Most Harmful Novels for Aspiring Writers.” We think self-willed ignorance is more harmful than knowing one’s precedents and counter with this oldie but goodie: those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.