Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
Man, do I appreciate the artists out there who take old black-and-white photographs and colorize them. And they don’t do it in the old Ted Turner fashion, who was roundly and probably rightly condemned in the ’80s for computer-colorizing lots of old MGM movies. Those didn’t look right. And, unlike movies actually filmed in color, like The Wizard of Oz, these converted ones gave me uneasy feelings, like heavily made-up dead people on open-casket display. Icky.
But the photos in this article – none of which I’m posting because I don’t want to run afoul of copyright issues – are haunting in a completely different way. They bring their eras to life, revealing detail and humanity that didn’t quite come through in black-and-white.
There’s a dazzling scene from the wharves of New York City, circa 1900, full of realistic color that makes the image seem contemporary. Some unrealistic color too, but it works in a painterly way, attracting your eye. Two shots of a Civil War era general show how different approaches tease out different elements. And there’s the required portrait of Abraham Lincoln, which makes him look a lot less weary than we’re used to seeing him. Maybe a little bored.
But the images that will haunt me forever are the three ID photos of a young female Auschwitz inmate. Click on the link for those alone, because the color in them draws out the girl’s heart-wrenching fear and despair. She is utterly human, and how anyone could have dehumanized her the way they did is a glimpse into the kind of malevolence we wish could be eradicated even though we know it’s insidious and here to stay.
Her fear is our own. In living color.