By Tom Dare
A NEW BOOK featuring incredible colourised images and a teaser video shows the people of the past brought back to life for the 21st Century.
Images from ‘Retrographic: History in Colour’ by Michael Carroll show such famous faces as astronaut Neil Armstrong, pictured ahead of the Apollo 11 mission which would make him the first man to walk on the moon, as well as Grigori Rasputin, the infamous early 1900s Russian monk who was said to be very close to the country’s last ever Royal family.
Native American warriors, Japanese Geishas and American Civil War soldiers also feature in colour for the first time, as well as a famous picture of the Beatles and then heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali posing for the cameras.
The book contains images from as far back as 1854, and over its 190 pages covers some of history’s biggest events, including the American Civil War, The First and Second World Wars, President Kennedy’s assassination and the Royal Coronation.
And author Michael Carroll says that, while he appreciates the value of the original black and white photos, he feels restoring them into colour helps people connect with the subjects, allowing us to empathise with them and to see the person as the photographer would have seen them.
“Rightly, many people, including the colourisation artists I have worked with, have a deep respect and feel strongly about the aesthetic value of black and white in framing the subjects in such a way as to make them more ‘classic’ and ‘timeless’,” he says.
“Psychologically we attach to the black and white medium a huge amount of baggage associated with our conception of the past, and a simple example of this in our digital experience is the use of black and white filters on our mobile devices, or Instagram accounts, to create a vintage feel to our images.
“Even if they were only taken seconds ago, adding black and white to the people in the pictures suddenly makes them look like they could be from a remote period in history. It can be argued that the addition of colour to black and white has the reverse psychological effect, making them feel more contemporary and less detached from the present.
“Many of these images are so famous, they are part of the tapestry of world civilization and will be familiar to nearly everyone.
“However, when something familiar is made unfamiliar, in this case through the addition of colour, the viewer is invited to consider the object as if for the first time.
“So we look at the iconic picture of The Beatles with Muhammad Ali, and even if for in terms of taste we prefer the aesthetic of the black and white over the colour, we have still absorbed the experience of seeing this iconic image for the first time in colour and this changes and possibly adds value to our understanding of who they were.
“Adding colour is the closest we will get to witnessing scenes as the photographer themselves would have seen them, because they will have viewed events in colour like we all do, unless we have rare eye conditions that prevent us seeing colour.
“In this sense colourised photographs can be viewed as being more authentic than black and white and bringing us closer to the events as they actually occurred.”
‘Retrographic: History in Colour’ by Michael Carroll is published by Carpet Bombing Culture, and can be purchased here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Retrographic-Historys-Exciting-Images-Transformed/dp/1908211504/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1513769294&sr=8-1&keywords=retrographic+michael+d.+carroll