By Mark McConville
ICONIC images have been presented for the first time in a new book showing these famous photographs in living colour.
Striking pictures include the VJ Day kiss in Times Square as the end of World War Two was celebrated, the raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima and Marilyn Monroe in her most famous pose as a gust of wind blows her dress.
Other stunning shots in the book show the anti-war image of “Napalm Girl” Phan Thi Kim Phuc, the moment humanity mastered the air through the Wright brothers’ first flight and the Beatles meeting Mohammed Ali.
Many of these moments are already burned into our collective memory through the power of photography as shared by people across the 190-year long Age of the Image. And now, these visual time capsules are collected together for the first time and presented in living colour.
The original photographs have been painstakingly colourised by several expert colourisers for Michael D. Carroll’s new book, Retrographic, published by Carpet Bombing Culture.
“To contemporary eyes, particularly the new generation of digital millennials who have not been raised with colour analogue photography, let alone black and white, the original versions of historical images, no matter how iconic, are more distant, and therefore less accessible,” he said.
“We can justify the colourisation by recognising that we share the photographic moment more authentically with the photographer, and the subject, when we view it in colour.
“Many people express a preference towards black and white for aesthetic reasons, and indeed people, objects, and scenes look excellent when viewed through black and white photography.
“However, as one of our contributors, Matt Loughrey argues, authentic colour imagery brings us closer to the, “truth”, as far as any historical record can be said to recreate the past.
“Aesthetics is not entirely irrelevant to history, but it is certainly subservient to accuracy, in terms of what the witnesses to history would have seen when the image was taken.”
Mr Carroll explained the hours of research to go into preparing an image to be colourised and the different approaches various colourisers take.
“The traditional method for reaching authenticity is that which has been honed by generations of researchers: looking at the primary historical sources for evidence,” he explained.
“If we are colourising the paintwork of a Second World War Sherman Tank of the British Eight Army deployed in North Africa in 1941, for example, we should ideally consult regimental records to ensure the colours of the various insignia are correct, because each signal means something different in the military context under which the photograph was taken, and which cannot have been conveyed in the original black and white.
“A contrasting, high-tech method, developed by Ireland-based contributor Matt Loughrey, has been to produce a computer algorithmic code which “learns” the correct colours based on the tonality of the black and white original, and which has been rigorously tested against known image colours for reliability.”
These pictures form part of a new book on iconic colourised photographs called Retrographic by author Michael D. Carroll. The book is currently available to buy on Amazon for £16.85.