By Mark McConville
THE MOST notorious criminals in American history have been brought into the 21st century after their mug shots were expertly colourised.
Vivid colour images show prohibition era gangster Al Capone with his hat still on, Lucky Luciano; considered the godfather of modern organised crime and Vito Genovese who rose to power as an enforcer in the American Mafia during the same time period.
Other striking shots show infamous gangster and bank robber John Dillinger, Fred Barker; one of the founders of the Barker-Karpis gang, which committed numerous robberies, murders and kidnappings during the 1930s and New York mobster Joe Adonis.
The original black and white photographs were painstakingly colourised by Gavin Wieszala (16), from Buffalo, New York, USA.
“This particular project was inspired by my love for the TV program about gangsters Boardwalk Empire and a general fascination with the gangsters of the 20s and 30s,” he said.
“It was interesting and exciting to bring life back to these eerie photos of notorious criminals. I love seeing the emotions of the people in mug shots or portraits.
“With these gangsters some of them have a creepy smile, as if they know they’ll get out of prison somehow, and others seem to be on the brink of tears. Of course there are some who show no emotion, but it’s very fun nonetheless.”
Al Capone was an American mobster, crime boss, and businessman who attained notoriety during the Prohibition era as the co-founder and boss of the Chicago Outfit. His seven-year reign as crime boss ended when he was 33.
John Dillinger was an American gangster in the Depression-era United States. He operated with a group of men known as the Dillinger Gang or Terror Gang, which was accused of robbing 24 banks and four police stations, among other activities.
Dillinger escaped from jail twice. He was also charged with, but never convicted of, the murder of an East Chicago, Indiana, police officer who shot Dillinger in his bullet-proof vest during a shootout, prompting him to return fire; despite his infamy, it was Dillinger’s only homicide charge.
He courted publicity and the media of his time ran exaggerated accounts of his bravado and colourful personality, styling him as a Robin Hood figure.
In response, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover developed a more sophisticated Bureau as a weapon against organized crime, using Dillinger and his gang as his campaign platform.
Gavin, who used Photoshop to add colour to these images, explained his method and the problems he ran into.
“I colourise these photos using Photoshop and each portrait has 50 individual layers of colour,” he said.
“On average each of the portraits took one to two hours. When I started colourisation I used a free photo editing program which restricted the quality of my work, my advice to everyone who wants to try colourisation is to invest in Photoshop first, and it’s well worth it.
“Some of the old photos were really damaged or overexposed; one was so bad that I decided to scrap it. It’s important to spend a lot of time restoring the original photo before you colourise it.”
Striking images like these are featured in British author Michael D. Carroll’s new book, Retrographic on the colourisation of historical images. It is available on Amazon now for £16.85.
For more information visit: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Retrographic-Historys-Exciting-Images-Transformed/dp/1908211504