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In Memoriam: Photographers Who Died in 2012

In the universe of serious, meaningful photography, the chance to honor the lives and careers of peers, colleagues and, occasionally, heroes in an end-of-year “those we lost” tribute comes with a grim, one-time-only satisfaction: namely, the opportunity to see, in one place, the work of photographers who would otherwise never, ever be shown together.

Like politics, death can sometimes make for strange bedfellows.

Where else would, say, Cornel Lucas’ glamorous Hollywood portraits feel so right alongside LIFE staffer Lee Balterman’s edgy depictions of Sixties’ unrest? In what other context would a black-and-white image of Nehru by India’s first woman photojournalist, Homai Vyarawalla (a.k.a, “Dalda 13″), not seem out of place beside Jim McCrary’s famous 1971 Tapestry portrait of Carole King?

Of course, it’s hardly just the variety of photographers we lost in 2012 that’s so striking, but the cumulative power and excellence of their work.

Dody Weston Thompson, for example, who died in October at 89, not only worked as an assistant with titans like Edward Weston and Ansel Adams, but collaborated for years with her husband, Brett Weston. Over a five-plus-decade career, from the 1940s into the early 2000s, she forged friendships with many of the signature artists of the century (Minor White, Imogen Cunningham, Georgia O’Keeffe and others) while always doggedly — and joyfully — pursuing her own creative vision.

Another formidable woman, Eve Arnold, died early in 2012 at the age of 99. The Philadelphia native joined Magnum in 1957 and for decades produced indelible portraits of celebrities (Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe), political and cultural figures (Malcolm X, Jackie Kennedy, James Cagney) and the disenfranchised (migrant workers, prostitutes). Named a “Master of Photography” by ICP in 1995, Arnold lived in England until her death in January.

On staff at LIFE for 24 years, Michael Rougier was, according to magazine lore, the only unknown photographer who ever walked into the LIFE offices and was hired then and there. (He had smuggled pictures of a then-camera shy Eva Peron out of Argentina.) Rougier — who has a peak in Antarctica named after him; he tumbled down its side while on assignment for LIFE in the 1960s — died in January at the age of 86. Another LIFE photographer, Lee Balterman, whose work chronicled some of the signature events of the roiling Sixties (the ’68 Chicago convention, the Detroit riots) as well as the beauty and rigor of the arts, died in January at age 91. Ken Regan, who died in late November (nobody seems to have known his real age), made striking portraits of most of the biggest names of the 1960s and ’70s, including Dylan, the Stones, Hendrix and Muhammad Ali.

Prize-winning combat photographer Horst Faas, whose work across almost a half-century with the Associated Press helped redefine what war photography could (and perhaps should) look like, died in May. He was 79. In February, another award-winning war photographer, Rémi Ochlik, was killed by Syrian artillery fire while covering the siege of Homs in that country’s civil war. Ochlik, a World Press Photo honoree in 2012, was just 28.

The man who won both the Pulitzer Prize and the World Press Photo of the Year in 1963 for his image of a self-immolating monk in Saigon, Malcolm Browne, died in May at 81.

( Read Patrick Witty’s interview with Browne, “Behind the Burning Monk.” )

More than a few fine-art photographers passed away in 2012. Among them: New Jersey native Jan Groover, whose work has been shown at MoMa in New York, the Cleveland Museum of Art, ICP, the Corcoran Gallery and many other places; the self-taught, Kolkata-born Prabuddha Dasgupta, whose fashion work spanned more than three decades; and Arnaud Maggs, whose conceptual work — and especially his portraits of famous subjects, presented in grid-like formats — earned him acclaim in his native Canada and internationally.

Martine Franck, who died of cancer in Paris at 74, was a Magnum photographer for more than three decades who began her career in the early 1960s, assisting the great LIFE photographers Eliot Elisofon and Gjon Mili. Magnum’s president, Alex Majoli, eulogized his friend and colleague with the simple and moving observation that the agency had “lost a point of reference, a lighthouse, and one of our most influential and beloved members.”

In September, Pedro Guerrero died in Arizona at the age of 95. For five decades in the middle part of the 20th century, Guerrero (an art school dropout) worked closely with Frank Lloyd Wright, chronicling the architect’s projects in photographs.

French-born Michelle Vignes, who co-founded the International Fund for Photography and Fotovision, worked as a photo editor in the early days at Magnum and was among the most important chroniclers of the pivotal social movements of the 1960s and ’70s (the American Indian Movement’s occupation of Wounded Knee; the Black Panthers; Vietnam War protests), died in October at 86.

Richard Gordon, whose pictures are in the permanent collections of the Library of Congress, SFMOMA, the Getty Museum, the Corcoran Gallery and other major institutions, died in October in Berkley, Calif., at 67.

Chilean street-photographer Sergio Larrain, who was invited by Cartier-Bresson to join Magnum in the late ’50s, but abandoned his camera in the early 1970s in order to pursue what became an increasingly solitary spiritual quest, died in February at the age of 80. Another Latin American photographer, the Argentine Horacio Coppola, who was documenting his native Buenos Aires as early as the 1930s, died in June at 105.

Walt Zeboski, who covered four California governors and other political power players in the state, as well as Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign for the Associated Press, died on November 12. He was 83.

Yasuhiro Ishimoto, a Japanese-American who first learned photography while interned at Colorado’s Amache Internment Camp during World War II, died in February at 90. A key figure in the post-war movement (across all of the arts) that saw Eastern and Western sensibilities melding and, occasionally, clashing to such vivid effect, Ishimoto won numerous awards — including the Moholy-Nagy twice.

A photographer whose fashion work was published primarily in Harper’s Bazaar in the 1950s and ’60s and who was still working into her 90s — using contemporary digital technologies to manipulate her images — Lillian Bassman died in February at the age of 94.

Known primarily for an iconic image of Beat-era legends Michael McClure, Allen Ginsberg and others outside City Lights bookstore in San Francisco in December 1965 — made when he was just 22 — Bay Area native Larry Keenan worked as a photographer for the next four decades. He was an accomplished commercial photographer, but also made a point of continuing to shoot the counterculture as it evolved from the ’60s into the 21st century.

Wilhelm Brasse, a Pole and a prisoner at Auschwitz during the Second World War, was a professional photographer forced by the SS to document everything from the work performed by fellow inmates to the horrific medical experiments conducted by Nazi doctors at the notorious concentration camp.

Paula Lerner was just 52 years old when she died in March from cancer. Lerner, who often worked on commercial assignments to help finance the photojournalism projects that were her passion, was the principal photographer for Behind the Veil, about the lives of women and girls in contemporary Afghanistan.

In a career spanning 50 years, South Africa’s Alf Kumalo tirelessly (and artfully) chronicled the abuses of apartheid. He died in October at 82.

Known primarily for her pictures documenting the women’s movement of the 1970s and its high-profile leaders (Steinem, Friedan, Abzug), Bettye Lane also covered other people and events of the fraught era, including antiwar rallies and the stirrings of the modern environmental movement. She died in Manhattan in September at 82.

Architectural photographer Susan Carr died in early September in Chicago. A leader of the education programs at the American Society of Media Photographers, Carr was 49.

Robert McElroy died on February 22 in White Plains, New York. A photographer for Newsweek for almost 20 years, he was best-known for his pictures of the vibrant art “happenings” of the 1950s and early ’60s.

Stan Stearns — whose portrait of 3-year-old John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting his father’s coffin in 1963 poignantly distilled a nation’s grief — died of lung cancer in March. He was 76.

Juan Antonio Serrano, a documentary photographer and brother of the Ecuadorian Interior Minister, Jose Serrano, was stabbed to death in the city of Cuenca in southern Ecuador. The murder was, evidently, not associated with his photography work. Serrano was 34.

The Story Behind the Iconic Photograph from Sandy Hook

At 9:59 last Friday morning, Shannon Hicks pulled her 2006 Jeep Wrangler off the road just outside Sandy Hook Elementary school. As associate editor and photographer for Newtown, Connecticuts local paper, The Newtown Bee, she was responding to a radio dispatch heard over a local police scanner.

I thought it was going to be a false alarm, Hicks tells TIME, remembering the call last week. Gunshots fired inside an elementary school? No. seo marketing . Excellent SEO service . Not here, she thought.

But as she pulled up to the school, what she saw and heard removed all doubt.

The New York Times/Newseum

Parents just started yelling their childrens names, remembers Hicks, careful to grab her camera off the passenger seat as she climbed out of her vehicle and into the chaos of the scene.

The screams echoed loudly as Hicks tried to stay focused, composing each image though the eyepiece of her camera. She remembers watching a state trooper drive past her, get out of his vehicle, don his flak jacket, and announce to the panicked crowd that the scene was not secure.

She snapped frames of police and emergency personnel rushing to the school as well as of anxious parents already on scene pressed against police barriers, straining to see if their children had emerged from the building. Among armed police officers and weeping parents, she kept watch, diligently clicking the shutter.

At 10:09 am, 10 minutes after she climbed out of her vehicle, she snapped the shutter on an elementary school class being led out of the school by two Connecticut State Police officers.

I knew that, coming out of the building as terrified as they were those children were safe, Hicks said, of the photograph soon to grace the front pages of newspapers, magazines, and nearly every breaking news website around the world. I just felt that it was an important moment.

The picture wasnt sensational or disturbing, said Hicks, but it captured a feeling at least for the subjects and their families of relative safety amidst a maelstrom of fear and the harrowing unknown.

Los Angeles Times/Newseum

For the children freed from the school, parents rushed to their side, sweeping them up in firm embraces as they walked the 1100 feet to the nearby fire station. Hicks, camera in hand, followed them every step.

Ive heard from a few adults who anonymously called us [at The Newton Bee], and said it was very, very wrong to publish that one photograph. Hicks said, But Ive also had people come up to me mothers in particular whove said that the photograph was important because it showed that those children were safe.

By 11:30 that morning, Hicks, who is also a volunteer firefighter in Newtown, had passed the baton to another reporter from the paper, and had returned to the Bees office to coordinate the coverage.

There, for the next week, the small editorial staff would pull near-24 hour shifts, updating the website the paper is published weekly with news, community response and the obituaries of the 27 victims left in Fridays wake.

As a journalist, Hicks is proud to have documented the event, but issues caution to many media outlets now trolling the grounds in Newtown.

There are different levels of journalism out there, and ours [at The Bee] is not to follow people when they go to the funeral home, or the cemetery. We dont go knocking on the doors of victims of anything, said Hicks. Its very hard for us to watch other journalists do this to our neighbors.

Regarding her photographs popularity for lack of a better term Hicks said it came as a surprise and brings little personal relief. It is the cache of photographs buried on her cameras memory card, she said, that are hardest to look at and impossible to forget.

Im sure I will look through them someday, Hicks said, cognizant that the photographs she took that morning are now part of history.I just kind of wish that there were some that I could erase from my memory.”

Behind the Obama Cover: Person of the Year 2012

Last week, President Barack Obama, TIME’s Person of the Year for 2012, granted us a rare sitting with the legendary photographer Nadav Kander. We chose Kander because of his remarkable ability to capture the mood of a moment. He has photographed some of the most iconic people of our time — from Sir Paul McCartney and Brad Pitt to Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically-elected president, who is also featured in this issue. The two Obama portraits appearing in the issue are the first formal portraits of the President since his re-election.

(See more: Barack Obama, 2012 Person of the Year )

As managing editor Rick Stengel writes in his editor’s letter, “We are in the midst of historic cultural and demographic changes, and Obama is both the symbol and in some ways the architect of this new America.” To capture that magnitude, TIME commissioned Kander, whose signature style is defined by his exquisite lighting and almost painterly touch, to make a historic cover. The last time he photographed the President was in 2009 for The New York Times Magazine.

Callie Shell for TIME

President Barack Obama with TIME’s Director of Photography, Kira Pollack, during the photo shoot in the Diplomatic Room of the White House on Dec. 12, 2012.

“When photographing such a high profile individual, it’s a huge challenge to not let their high profile take over the process,” Kander says. “I wanted to make a meaningful photograph that reflected pause in a person’s life and reflect his humanity.”

Kira Pollack, Director of Photography

(Related: 48 Hours with President Obama by Callie Shell )

Syria’s Agony: The Photographs That Moved Them Most

Syria has always been a tough place to cover for journalists. Confidently authoritarian with a ruthlessly formidable security and intelligence apparatus, Syria has long been one of the most policed of Arab police states. So when some Syrians defied their government to take to the streets in the southern city of Dara‘a in March 2011, the temptation to cover the story was overwhelming for many, including myself.

The story of the Syrian uprising is ultimately the tale of regular citizens silencing the policeman in their heads, breaking their own personal barriers of fear to speak, to demonstrate, to demand, to reject, to no longer be afraid, to live in dignity. It’s about what these people will do, what they will endure, and what they are prepared to become to achieve their aims.

It is also the story of a significant portion of the population that considers the regime of President Bashar Assad the country’s best option, because they believe in its Baathist secular ideology or directly benefit from its patronage or don’t have confidence in Assad’s opponents and fear what may come next. Understanding what this segment of the population will accept in terms of state violence, the narratives they choose to believe and their concerns is a critical component of the story, though one that is harder to obtain, given the paucity of press visas issued by Damascus.

The only way to tell the Syrian story, really tell it, is to be on the ground with the men, women and children who are central to it, whether in Syria on in the neighboring states that many Syrians have fled to. It isn’t easy to do — the Committee to Protect Journalists, based in New York City, has dubbed Syria the “most dangerous place for journalists in the world” — but it is essential. Nothing beats being there. There is no compensating for seeing, feeling, touching, capturing, living the story.

The images here are a testament to the power of being on the ground, of sharing and capturing a moment for posterity, of translating an element of a person’s life through imagery.

Take a look at the photos. Can you place yourself in these situations? Can you imagine what it must be like? What do you feel when you look at the images? Are you drawn into them, or are you repulsed? Can you relate to them, or are they too alien? This is the power of translating on-the-ground reporting to an audience. This is why we must and will continue to document the Syrian uprising from inside the country when we can, and we — members of the foreign press corps — are not alone. Sadly, as is often the case, local journalists (both professional and citizen) have disproportionately borne the brunt of the casualties in this crisis. Still, this story is not about members of the media and what we go through to tell it; it’s about the Syrians who entrust their testimonies, their experiences, their hopes, their fears, their images to us in the hope that they will help explain what is happening in one of the most pivotal states in the Middle East.

—Rania Abouzeid


This collection of testimonies is the third in a series by TIME documenting iconic images of conflict. See “9/11: The Photographs That Moved Them Most” and “Afghanistan: The Photographs That Moved Them Most” for more.

Abouzeid is a Middle East correspondent for TIME. Reporting by Vaughn Wallace.



The 2012 Presidential Election Year in Pictures

For years, TIME has created some of the most memorable campaign photography, from veteran political photographer Diana Walker’s coverage of five administrations to Christopher Morris’s eight years with President G.W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. In 2008, the tradition continued with Callie Shell’s intimate documentation of Barack Obama’s campaign and eventual presidency.

This season, we looked for ways to continue the legacy of TIME’s political coverage during the 2012 elections — to jump start the traditional approaches to covering campaigns that are moving further and faster from the familiar political cycles of the past decade. We looked to commission photographers with fresh perspectives who could re-envision the spectrum of American politics.

The candidates kicked off their campaigns in Iowa, so we sent Swedish photographer Lars Tunbjork, known for his work photographing the ironic and often-absurd landscapes of suburbia, to document the caucuses. His first time covering American politics, Tunbjork photographed the strangeness of these early events in the frozen Iowa landscape.

We continued by commissioning work by Ricardo Cases, Lauren Fleishman, Justin Maxon, Brendan Hoffman, Lauren Lancaster and Peter van Agtmael — selecting each of them for their different visions as photographers. And each returned with photographs that reflected a diverse visual vocabulary looking beyond the political staging.

We also encouraged veteran political photographers like Christopher Morris, Brooks Kraft, Callie Shell, Andrew Cutraro and Danny Wilcox Frazier to experiment with their coverage. While on assignment, all noted how different the political landscape felt visually since the last election. After Obama’s first 100 days in office, the White House dramatically cut down on photographers’ access to the President, instead releasing images by Pete Souza on their own Flickr page.

The Romney campaign also carefully controlled photographers’ access this election, allowing very little intimacy with the candidate until the final weeks of the campaign, and then only rotating the traveling pool behind the scenes.

In the same way an undecided voter tries to see behind the political facade to judge the true character of the candidate they’ll vote for, our photographers too worked relentlessly to break down the constructed photo-ops and reveal to our readers a sliver of their personality.

The media dissected the Republican candidates one by one before a frontrunner finally emerged. As Mitt Romney became the GOP  frontrunner, we turned to photographers who could capture the candidate’s personal side. Lauren Fleishman documented him (along with running-mate Paul Ryan) for weeks on end, through ten different states. Fleishman’s photographs reflect the nuances of the conservative values shared by he and his wife, Ann.

As Obama started to step up his campaigning, we assigned Callie Shell to follow the President. Documenting his travels the week before the DNC, Shell showed readers a side to the President that had felt absent for a long time. A warm photo of Obama leaning against a high-school gymnasium’s wall before a rally made the cover of our magazine at the DNC the following week.

We’ve attempted to present readers with photographs that document a very specific time in our country’s history—a time where we face numerous worries and frustrations about America’s political future. Although this election may reveal how radically divided we are as a nation, the future will be the ultimate judge of how important this time of recovery continues to be. We hope to provide the lasting record.

Paul Moakley is the Deputy Photo Editor at TIME. 

Behind the Cover: Photographing Super Mario

Like many famous athletes, Italian soccer player Mario Balotelli has developed a reputation for outlandish behavior. But photographer Levon Biss was not worried during his recent TIME International cover shoot with the star, who is currently playing for the British football club Manchester City.

(Read More: Mario Balotelli: The Infamously Mercurial Brilliance of the Soccer Star)

“His personality is very shy, actually,” said Biss. “He wears outrageous clothes and sometimes on the football pitch he does outrageous things, but as a person he is not outrageous, he is very, very shy.”

The shoot did get off to a slightly rocky start when Balotelli arrived at the studio Biss had set up at Manchester City’s training grounds. “He walked in and there were 12 or 13 people in there,” Biss explained. “I think he got quite nervous and walked straight back out again. We had to wait another half-hour for him to come back.”

Despite the delay, the shoot eventually went off without a hitch. To compensate for Balotelli’s discomfort, Biss focused on stylized portraits, rather than action shots. “He looks quite interesting, so you don’t need to do much with him,” said Biss. “He’s got quite a brooding character, so we tried to enhance that with a bit of red lighting and keep the images quite graphic.”

This is not an unusual approach when photographing athletes, who unlike actors and other celebrities, said Biss, are not used to performing for the camera. “These are sports people,” he said. “You have to hinge on what you can do photographically instead of relying on them to come through with a shining personality.”

Biss makes sure to work fast and use a straightforward, no nonsense approach, similar to what his subjects would encounter on the field. Most importantly, Biss, said is keeping the sessions short and sweet.

“They want to be out of there,” said Biss. “If you can get on their side by saying ‘look we’ve got an hour but we can do this in half an hour,’ you are automatically their friend and they will give you what you want straight away.”

Levon Biss is a London-based photographer and regular contributor to TIME.

From Photography to Film: Stanley Kubrick Enters the Ring

Stanley Kubricks professional career began April 12, 1945, as the high school junior with a prolific track record of absences wandered the streets of the Bronx and snapped a picture of a crestfallen newsstand dealer surrounded by headlines announcing the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As childhood friend Alexander Singer tells the story, Kubrick immediately ran to his home darkroom, which his father had built to encourage the scholastic underachievers budding interest in photography, printed the picture and made a sale that same afternoon to Look Magazine. The following year, when no colleges would accept Kubrick because of his poor academic record, Look hired him as a full-time staff photographer.

Singer and Kubrick had forged a bond over shared scholastic apathy and mutual respect of each others extracurricular achievements Singer as editor of the school literary arts magazine, and Kubrick as the kid with a camera around his neck: almost a caricature of what youd imagine a teenage cameraman would look like, as Singer describes. When plans to photograph a feature-length cinematic adaptation of Homers Iliad written and directed by Singer proved too ambitious, Kubrick struck upon the idea to instead translate one of his own photographic essays to the big screen.

That essay was Prizefighter, published by Look in January 1949, and described by Kubrick biographer Vincent LoBrutto as the moment he came of age as a photojournalist. The seven-page story depicted scenes from the life of Bronx-born middleweight boxer Walter Cartier as he trained and prepared to enter the ring against moments from his romantic and domestic lives. Often working under stark, overhead light with infrared film (also favored by his idol, Weegee), Kubrick captured high-contrast images that emphasized Walters physique and cast brooding, incisive shadows on his face.

Prizefighter would go on to define Kubrick in other ways, though. It might have been his dawning moment as a photojournalist, but the essay would also serve as the basis of the first film Kubrick would direct, called Day at the Fight, released two years later.

The 20-year old Kubrick made the decision to shoot his first film on 35mm rather than the lighter, more economical 16mm format favored by amateursa bold decision by someone who later described the entirety of his motion picture camera training as a hands-on demonstration at an equipment house. Kubrick and Singer used Bell & Howells Eyemo, a lightweight camera introduced 1926 for use in newsreels and military applications and advertised, perhaps over-optimistically, as convenient to carry as the average size still camera. Kubrick photographed most of the project solo, and Singer joined on a second ringside camera to capture the live fight scene. A third camera operator also filmed from high in the auditorium.

Comparing the Prizefighter contact sheets side-by-side with Day of the Fight, one gets the sense that much of the creative legwork had been worked out during the photo essay, which, despite its ostensible documentary subject matter, was chiefly constructed through deliberately-staged scenes. But Day of the Fight is a distinctly cinematic work; particularly remarkable is Kubrick’s ability to control time and add an element of suspense in portraying Walter’s anticipation of the fight, a trait missing in Prizefighter. linkwheel . The first-time director was also aided by the fact that the physical spectacle of boxing lends itself to cinema. After all, the first feature-length film ever released was a 1897 St. Patricks Day fight between James J. Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons. Many of the same setups from the contact sheets and short film are repeated in Kubricks subsequent work, particularly his second feature, Killers Kiss, a seedy yarn about a down-on-his-luck fighter.

Although Kubrick is regarded as the most critically and commercially successful photographer turned full-time feature filmmaker, this mainstream acclaim might also be the reason his name rarely enters the discussion of the legendary New York-based photographers and their progressive contributions to avant garde and non-narrative filmmaking. This tradition includes Paul Strand (Manhatta, 1921), Rudy Burckhardt (The Pursuit of Happiness, 1940) Helen Levitt (In the Street, 1949), Ruth Orkin & Morris Engel (The Little Fugitive, 1953), William Klein (Broadway by Light, 1958) and Robert Frank (Pull My Daisy, 1959), among whose varying innovations include discrete handheld photography, examples of life caught unawares, and blurring lines between documentary and staged situations. Kubricks perceived youth and inexperience may be another factor in this oversight: though several writers have supported their praise of The Little Fugitive by recalling that the ten-years-senior Engel claimed a 25-year-old Kubrick attempted to rent his uniquely-constructed equipment for his own first feature (Fear and Desire), Kubricks production predates The Little Fugitive by several months. Furthermore, much of Kubrick’s early work has not been widely available to the public per Kubrick’s wishes, Fear and Desire only recently resurfaced after decades of suppression.

One could hardly argue Day of the Fight is a major work in the context of documentary film or Kubricks entire oeuvre, but it remains a fascinating key to understanding the development of Kubrick as an artist and entrepreneuran under-appreciated example of the maverick cinematic approaches developed by street photographers. Undoubtedly,Day of the Fight is one of the most assured and mature endeavors undertaken by someone approaching a film camera for the first time.

Jon Dieringer is an independent curator and the editor and publisher of Screen Slate, a daily online resource for listings and commentary of New York City repertory film and independent media.

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.