American actress Anna May Wong in 1930. Considered to be the first Chinese American movie star. My Colorful Past /

By Ben Wheeler

A SERIES of photos showing some of early Hollywood’s most glamorous actresses have been brought to life in colour for the first time.

The images include portraits of Louise Brooks who popularised the bobbed haircut in the 1920s, whilst another shows the stunning Anna May Wong who is considered to be the first Chinese-American movie star.

American actress and dancer Louise Brooks in 1925. She popularized the bobbed haircut. My Colorful Past /

They are the work of Matt Loughrey (39), a colourist from Westport, Ireland who carefully brought the photographs into the 21st century.

“These are the chorus, cabaret, screen and stage icons of an era long gone, brought to life using technology and patience,” he said.

“I want people, especially the younger audience, to see history in a new light. It is arguable that colour engages the brain far better than monochrome while at the same time bringing the past closer to those who take interest in it as a hobby or those in education.

Polish stage and screen actress Pola Negri in 1932. My Colorful Past /

“This is the first use of a new method called SMTM as a means to realise monochrome images in colour, it was very much a trial and error voyage to hone the algorithm and took a lot of time.”

Matt explained more about this revolutionary method and how it differs from previous means of colourisation.

“Ordinarily the method to colour images like this is achieved using dozens of layers, SMTM, which is something we have developed this year textures maps to surfaces with a new sense of realism,” said Matt.

Frances Day in 1926. My Colorful Past /

“I use a WACOM mobile studio pro which is essentially a platform which mimics a pen and paper, albeit digitally and with incredible creative freedom.

“These particular photographs took just over a week to bring to life and a couple were especially complex, owing to material details.

“People are initially stuck for words when they see the results of what can be done, they often remark on the realism and how the imagery they’ve been accustomed to most of their lives is reinvented and brings the past closer.

“I encourage anybody who takes an interest in visual history to check out what’s possible by visiting my Instagram, they’ll not be disappointed.”

British actress Vivien Leigh in 1944. My Colorful Past /

For more of Matt’s work visit

Striking images like these are featured in British author Michael D. Carroll’s new book, Retrographic focussed on the colourisation of historical images.

For more information visit:

Evelyn Nesbit in 1903. My Colorful Past /