Saturday, June 16, 2012

Colouring in the Past

These two photographs look like they could be from the latest edition of House and Garden or somesuch style magazine. In fact, and I find this quite shocking, they are photographs of the interior of a Cornish house belonging to a man called Albert Kahn in 1913! These aren't black and white photographs that were colorised either by hand or by computer, these are photographs taken with a genuine, early colour photographic process. There is something both disturbing and reassuring at the same time about looking at such old photographs in colour. We are used to the past being in black and white and, in a way, that familiarity with black and white images puts a barrier of the imagination between us the past. Looking in colour suddenly removes the need for that visual imagination and creates room for other kinds of imaginative looking. These photos come from the wonderful Retronaut website - and I don't know why I haven't been pointed there before.

If you are in the mood for more coloured history, check out as well their colour photographs of Cornwall by the same photographer, also the colour photographs taken on Shackleton's ill-fated 'Endurance' expedition and marvel at pictures that were saved from a sinking ship by the photographer diving into water inside the ship and rescuing the plates, and if you need more there's always the even earlier, 1909, photographs in colour of Mark Twain.


Mike said...

I read in a book once that an early colour process involved taking a picture through red, green and blue filters seperately, and then printing the images onto a transparent film and projecting them all together. Of course it was pretty clumsy and not suitable for moving subjects.

Nigel said...

Truly beautiful images. Such clarity despite their age.

Oyster said...

Beautiful photo's. The BBC ran a short series 2-3 years ago 'The Wonderful World of Albert Kahn', who financed a worldwide photographic tours using an early true-colour photgraphic process, so the photo's are not hand-tinted or put through a modern computer process. There is a marvellous book of the series and there is museum in Kahn's Paris home see

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