How would you like to see a photo of the 1937 Hindenburg disaster in color? Rather than experiencing the destruction in black and white, how much more powerful would that image be if we could see the intensity of the flames against the night sky ? Well, thanks to the work of an increasingly popular online trend, now you can. And it’s not limited to the Hindenburg. Photographic colorizing is illuminating portraits of long-past world leaders, scenes from 1930’s US Great Depression, and the ever heart-breaking Thich Quang Duc’s self-immolation.
A number of photographers have taken to this challenge, and one company, Dynamichrome, explains the appeal of this change. They write:
Black and white photography can be an artistic choice, but with images taken before the advent of mainstream colour photography, it was usually the only option. As a result, historical photographs are a far less vivid depiction of the past. Skilfully restored and authentically colourised photos allow the viewer to connect with a past era and see details they never noticed before, bringing history to life and drawing attention to images previously unseen in full colour.
The colorizing of popular historical photographs isn’t something that is just for the professionals. There is a whole subreddit, History in Color, that features this practice. Obviously, some attempts are better than others. Regardless, when done well, it’s a powerful way to revisit history.