By Mark McConville
INCREDIBLE images of Native Americans around the turn of the twentieth century have been given a new lease of life after being expertly colourised.
The stunning shots show a Hamatsa shaman possessed by supernatural power after having spent several days in the woods as part of an initiation ritual, a nude bowman standing on rocks in water and aiming an arrow and Red Hawk, an Oglala warrior, sitting on a horse that is drinking from a small pond in the Badlands of North Dakota.
Other striking pictures show a Klamath Indian chief in feather headdress standing on a mountain overlooking Crater Lake, Oregon, Two Dakota women hanging meat to dry on poles and portraits of many Native Americans including Three Horses in full headdress.
The black and white photographs, taken by Edward Curtis, were painstakingly colourised by Anthony Malesys (26) from Lille, France.
“I was immediately fascinated by the work of Edward Curtis,” he said.
“Representing the life of the North American Indian by capturing scenes of life or significant characters (or not) among the different tribes who lived on this territory, as well as their culture, with his camera.
“He collected a census, between 1907 and 1930, of all the North American Indian peoples in a fabulous ethnographic and artistic project, making it possible to never forget who they were.
“I like being able to see the past from a totally different eye and angle and to be able to transmit and relate historical facts at the same time.
“I like the fact that it allows to remember the existence of forgotten people or events. That’s why I called my Facebook page “Colorful History”.”
Edward Sheriff Curtis was an American photographer and ethnologist whose work focused on the American West and on Native American peoples.
In 1895, Curtis met and photographed Princess Angeline, also known as Kickisomlo, the daughter of Chief Sealth of Seattle. This was his first portrait of a Native American.
In 1906, J. P. Morgan provided Curtis with $75,000 to produce a series on Native Americans. This work was to be in 20 volumes with 1,500 photographs.
Eventually 222 complete sets were published. Curtis’s goal was not just to photograph but also to document as much of Native American traditional life as possible before that way of life disappeared.
Anthony explained how he brought the old black and white photographs back to life by adding a splash of colour.
“At the beginning of the process I do a lot of research,” he said.
“In fact, I often spend more time in my research than in the actual colourisation. I am not only looking for references for objects or clothes but also information about the story that corresponds to the photo itself, because when it comes to choosing the right colours, it is important to know the historical and cultural context as well.
“I use Photoshop to bring life to the images. By using different layers, different tones, contrasts or colours, I can bring back details that were present in the original photograph.
“By adding colours to these photographs, the viewer is brought closer to reality in which they were taken.”
For more information see www.facebook.com/A.M.Colorizations