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Sanna Dullaway Adds Color to the Most Iconic Photos in History

By dpreview staff on Aug 19, 2013 at 09:44 GMT

General-interest blog The Roosevelts has posted a selection of artist Sanna Dullaway's colorized images, showing what iconic images might have looked like to the photographer that captured them. Among the (exceeding well-done, it must be said) adjusted images are Malcolm Browne's iconic shot of monk Thich Quang Duc's self-immolation, Alfred Eisenstaedt's famous image of the kiss in Times Square on VJ Day, and Anne Frank's haunting 1942 portrait. 

The images are unattributed, but appear to originate with Swedish artist Sanna Dullaway.

Abraham Lincoln in color
Thich Quang Duc's self-immolation (1968)
Atomic test (1946)
Alfred Hitchcock - 'Master of Horror' in color
Anne Frank (1942) 
Dorothea Lange's 'Migrant Mother' (1936)
Margaret Bourke-White took this iconic shot in 1937 - here's how it might have looked to her.  

Comments

Total comments: 275
123
vroger1
By vroger1 (1 week ago)

Frankly, I have converted almost all my shooting to black and white. The colorization of Dorothea Lange's work and Bourke- White's images are a clear demonstration that black and white is a much more powerful medium; more powerful at best and much more interesting in the least. In my personal opinion, only a subject that by its nature cries out for color should in fact be rendered in color. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Ms. Dullaway's flattery of Ted Turner (colorization) is very misplaced. I believe the answer is simply, that this woman was driven solely by trying to do something to give credence to her last name. Unfortunately, I do not find any of the originals "Dull". VRR

0 upvotes
jaygeephoto
By jaygeephoto (8 months ago)

I'm hoping that this is all a cruel hoax to get our collective ire up. If not, well, The Lion King is loosely based on Hamlet, but no one confuses the two. I hope.

0 upvotes
digitalLarry
By digitalLarry (8 months ago)

I think she does very nice work. I also like to colorize photos; especially those from the civil war era when color photography was not yet invented.

I posted one of my colorizations here

http://g4.img-dpreview.com/B9D3CE08D4A744E290ADEB1573B1D87D.jpg

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 1 minute after posting
2 upvotes
Sir Corey of Deane
By Sir Corey of Deane (6 months ago)

That civil war job is SUPERB!

1 upvote
ThomasB
By ThomasB (6 months ago)

Excellent job. Thanks for posting.

1 upvote
Red Swan
By Red Swan (8 months ago)

Doing re-art of an art is an art by itself IMHO. And I like her work too. :)

1 upvote
PlainOrFancy
By PlainOrFancy (8 months ago)

I agree. Her images can be considered separate works. It has a long tradition :)

Comment edited 50 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
57even
By 57even (8 months ago)

They don't ADD, they complement. It makes the heroes of history seem more immediate, more recognisable, more like us. Which is interesting and quite harmless.

BTW if you prefer B&W that's fine. I care as much about that as I do about which kind of music you like. Which, in case you are wondering, I don't. Opinions you don't pay for are mostly worth the fee.

1 upvote
Apewithacamera
By Apewithacamera (8 months ago)

HDR versions with some extra dramatic PP would make these even better. No?

;-).

2 upvotes
Davros5064
By Davros5064 (8 months ago)

I too prefer BW over color. However there are instances where color gives the scope more dramatically, like the immolation where fire looks real and someone is burning in it.
I guess it all depends on how busy the picture is. BW unifies the background and distractions away from the main subject.
In the end its all "relative to the observer" as the colored old man on the title would say.

0 upvotes
mzillch
By mzillch (8 months ago)

Most of these original artists are long dead and never made any public statements regarding their stand on having their works adulterated. Luckily, one B&W artist, legendary film maker John Huston, DID survive into this ridiculous era of colorization and said he chose B&W over color quite intentionally:

"the aesthetic conception which earned John HUSTON his great fame is based on the interplay of black and
white, which enabled him to create an atmosphere according to which he directed the actor and selected
the backdrops; moreover, he expressed himself clearly about his film entitled “The Maltese Falcon” when
stating, “I wanted to shoot it in black and white like a sculptor chooses to work in clay, to pour his work
in bronze, to sculpt in marble”.
... “ASPHALT JUNGLE” was shot in black and white, following a deliberate aesthetic choice,
according to a process which its authors considered best suited to the character of the work."

His heirs sued the colorizers, Turner Brdcst, AND WON.

1 upvote
PlainOrFancy
By PlainOrFancy (8 months ago)

Andy Warhol "adulterated" other artists' art, and Jimi Hendrix turned out a glorious, but almost unrecognizable version of "Blue Suede Shoes." Dullaway is not Warhol or Hendrix, but (and because) she's doing her thing.
My book of Dorothea Lange photos, for instance, looks exactly the same to me after viewing these photos. Dullaway's work play's on the originals, obviously, but lives alongside them. Her versions won't survive as long as the originals, and I imagine Dullaway is fine with that.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
mzillch
By mzillch (8 months ago)

Dullaway's colorization contributes absolutely zip to these original artists' great works, which she has adulterated WITHOUT permission, much like a graffiti "artist" tagging Michelangelo's David, "Because I think it looks cool and I have something to say", they'll contend.

0 upvotes
PlainOrFancy
By PlainOrFancy (8 months ago)

Fair enough opinion. I think legally, these alterations will be considered separate works – no permission required.
Personally, I'm enjoying the experiment. I don't think there's any pretence of improving the originals here. They are their own thing. And it's non-destructive; the originals will live on. I shoot almost entirely in B/W myself, for the record.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
mzillch
By mzillch (8 months ago)

PlainOrFancy, so I take it you would have no problem with me taking your photographic works and manipulating them however I deem fit, without getting your permission to do so, and posting them here for all to see, right? Afterall, that's exactly what Dullaway has done.

0 upvotes
Sir Corey of Deane
By Sir Corey of Deane (6 months ago)

IMO, colour would do NOTHING FOR The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

0 upvotes
JerseyJohn
By JerseyJohn (8 months ago)

Ansel Adams wept

0 upvotes
PlainOrFancy
By PlainOrFancy (8 months ago)

Ansel Adams shot roll after roll of Kodachrome as well as black and white. Kodak kept giving it to him, and he loved trying i out. He even shot ad photos for them.

0 upvotes
jaygeephoto
By jaygeephoto (8 months ago)

Seen the Ansel Adams color images as well as some stuff shot by Edward Weston. While both their B&W works are timeless and awe-inspiring, the color is competent but pretty much forgettable. To see Adam's work in a parallel media, check out his work "Singular Images" using Polaroid B&W.

0 upvotes
JerseyJohn
By JerseyJohn (8 months ago)

Exactly. He HAD the option to shoot color or Black and White ... and did shoot color... but please keep Dullaway away from his B&W!

0 upvotes
PlainOrFancy
By PlainOrFancy (8 months ago)

The craftsmanship is very good here, and I find many of the images quite lovely. Some of them even have a vintage Kodachrome vibe to them.
These will not do anything to diminish the power of the originals, or in any way replace them in the public consciousness, such that it is. I'm quite sure the artist is aware of that. It's just a cool exercise, and everyone is free to look or ignore. I think some of the original artists would have enjoyed these, too.

Comment edited 31 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
f8andshowup
By f8andshowup (8 months ago)

Pointless.

2 upvotes
mzillch
By mzillch (8 months ago)

This sickens me and is an arrogant slap in the face to the original artists. It breaks the number one rule of art: YOU DON'T MESS WITH ANOTHER PERSON'S WORK!

Alfred Eisenstaedt and Dorothea Lange must be turning in their graves.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 9 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
jaygeephoto
By jaygeephoto (8 months ago)

The Parthenon should be ready for that first coat of Weatherbeater™ or Benjamin Moore any time now. Will look worlds better than it does now. Hope Sanna is free to wield a brush.

0 upvotes
GaryJP
By GaryJP (8 months ago)

It had its first coat thousands of years ago. I am not a fan of colourisation, but the Parthenon WAS highly coloured. And academics have already wielded that brush.

4 upvotes
timo
By timo (8 months ago)

I don't personally like them all that much, but they are no more 'unrealistic' than early colour photos.

Colour certainly does add something. Archival footage of World War II in colour, say, brings history to life in a way b/w doesn't do.

0 upvotes
tnun
By tnun (8 months ago)

It's fine for what it is - its own genre, which has little if anything to do with photography. I certainly prefer the black and white as a rule, though occasionally the colour adds a bit to appreciating the scene as documentary: where this is NOT the case is the photo of the self immolating monk which, heaven forfend, looks kitschy.
Colour in photography is an entirely different matter than colourING: a matter of light and all its transformations. which can be "gorgeous" indeed.

0 upvotes
mcshan
By mcshan (8 months ago)

Warning: if you have not read the thread and choose to post that you prefer the original black and white versions you will instantly be deemed a "hater".

2 upvotes
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (8 months ago)

This is not true. Those called haters have shown some hate against the woman that made the coloring. Many of them also claim that the B&W images are sacrosanct and those tempering with their lack of color are evil.

1 upvote
mcshan
By mcshan (8 months ago)

Roland, Hate is a strong word and certainly merely having an opinion is not hate.

1 upvote
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (8 months ago)

Yep, its a strong word. But I find it quite pointless to again and again claim that the woman has done something extremely wrong. Because she hasn't. It is only opinions. BTW, I wonder how many would have the guts to say it to Sanna in person.

0 upvotes
JerseyJohn
By JerseyJohn (8 months ago)

Changing another artists work is just wrong. If you consider photography art... leave other's work alone. This should be a simple concept. This is not facebook ... this is someone else's art and livelyhood.

0 upvotes
Boerseuntjie
By Boerseuntjie (8 months ago)

All these would have looked much better with Instagram filters...LOL
I think they are interesting but don't screw with what is already considered an ICON, just my opinion not saying the work that went into these were dump just not necessary,
It's like repainting the Mona Lisa in crayon, just saying.
I will say this, I think they were colorized excellent.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 8 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
Tape5
By Tape5 (8 months ago)

Colour is a bit of a nuisance where B&W photography is doing just fine. B&W photography keeps relations simple and focused. Now I am asking myself ''who was the talented tailor in town who did that smart jacket on Mr Lincoln?''

But colour is good to show the youth that history was not in B&W. It is much easier to forget a monochromatic history.

1 upvote
al_in_philly
By al_in_philly (8 months ago)

No offense, but artful hand coloring of photographs has been around almost as long as photography itself. And the quality of the craft applied here is very good. It's just that these images were taken with the intention of being printed in Black and White, and the processing manipulation was done for monochromatic tonalities. Pretty or not, coloration of an original B&W work debases it--especially those which have achieved iconic status, such as these.

I remember when Ted Turner started colorizing many of the classic films in his collection: I was waiting for him to do it to Citizen Kane; thankfully that never happened. Greg Toland's brilliant cinematography stood out in its time and is revered for what it was/is today. Those images are revered as masterpieces, not to be "improved upon." Let's respect Dorthea Lange, and the others, for their work in the same way. . .even though we can inject the color of "today."

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
washyshots
By washyshots (8 months ago)

I quite like them for what they are. They are well processed and offer one persons idea of what the images 'might' have looked like if shot in colour. I guess I see them as a novelty - nothing more and nothing less.

1 upvote
madmaxmedia
By madmaxmedia (8 months ago)

I don't understand all the negativity. Although I wouldn't want the colorized version hanging on my wall, they are fascinating to look at as they are done pretty well and look like authentic color photographs (at least the thumbnails do.)

The color versions give a sense of immediacy and reality that the B&W versions lack. Of course that is the nature of color vs. black and white photography, but it is interesting to see these historical photos in a totally different light. It's like browsing the photo archives at Shorpy.

1 upvote
al_in_philly
By al_in_philly (8 months ago)

Looking at these is sort of like attending a funeral viewing of an old friend, seeing him laying there incongruously with make up on for the first time ever, while hearing the old lady behind you saying "he looks so life-like."

0 upvotes
MisterBG
By MisterBG (8 months ago)

It's a bit like teaching a dog to walk on it's hind legs - clever, but ultimately pointless.

0 upvotes
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (8 months ago)

Like many here, it would be good to add "IMHO" or "According to my opinion" or something. Personally I find them refreshing, and absolutely not pointless.

2 upvotes
MisterBG
By MisterBG (8 months ago)

Everything that's posted here is someone's opinion, further qualification is unnecessary.

1 upvote
rfsIII
By rfsIII (8 months ago)

Just to be clear, for all her hard work, what this woman has done is created something called kitsch. For those of you who did not grow up in the last century, "kitsch" is a term that was first used by the Germans and it means artwork that's superficially appealing but not enlightening.

"Is a style of mass-produced art or design using cultural icons. The term is generally reserved for unsubstantial or gaudy works, or works that are calculated to have popular appeal. Kitsch mimics its immediate predecessor with no regard to ethics—it aims to copy the beautiful, not the good."

0 upvotes
Chillbert
By Chillbert (8 months ago)

I respectfully disagree. They are well done and bring a new, imaginative, perspective to topics which in many cases could not be captured in color at the time.

0 upvotes
AllBrands
By AllBrands (8 months ago)

"How your grandparents and great-grandparents used to see the world"? They told me that color was invented in the 1960's! Now I'm to believe that there was color before color TV and color film? Seriously? Is my face red or what?

0 upvotes
ljmac
By ljmac (8 months ago)

A predictable response from the purist snobs, but I think these actually look more realistic than a lot of the over-processed photo-paintings so many professional (and amateur) photographers churn out these days. Absolutely brilliantly done.

5 upvotes
dustybunter
By dustybunter (8 months ago)

Agreed. Whilst the originals are always best, the job here is done well and looks great, in my opinion.

5 upvotes
Tom 13
By Tom 13 (8 months ago)

These images are one small step from perfection.
I can't wait for the photographer to transfer them to black velvet so I can incorporte them into my Dogs Playing Poker and Elvis collection.

2 upvotes
Artistico
By Artistico (8 months ago)

So Dullaway takes the dull away from old photos. That makes her name one of the best aptonyms I've heard.

1 upvote
Paul Guba
By Paul Guba (8 months ago)

Go take some pictures.

0 upvotes
MikeWarner
By MikeWarner (8 months ago)

Really liking the Hitchcock one.

0 upvotes
CekariYH
By CekariYH (8 months ago)

I guess none of the haters read the text about this article?
"...Sanna Dullaway's colorized images, showing what iconic images might have looked like to the photographer that captured them..." Intention to me means what it says "might have looked".

Furthermore no one of them seems to have visited her site where she writes: "No colourised photo can replace the original black and white picture, but each will give you a new persepective on how your grandparents and great-grandparents used to see the world".

I'm fore one love the work and is amazed how well it is done.

8 upvotes
Marla2008
By Marla2008 (8 months ago)

I beg to differ. I actually find it not only amazingly well achieved from a technical point of view, but also a very interesting alternative perception of an all important collective heritage. Replacing the originals would have been a crime, but both versions can coexist and complement each other in a very useful way. say bravo.

8 upvotes
paulnptld
By paulnptld (8 months ago)

Completely agree.

0 upvotes
Chillbert
By Chillbert (8 months ago)

Well said!

0 upvotes
Zvonimir Tosic
By Zvonimir Tosic (8 months ago)

A parody.
In fact, this reminds me of the scene from the "2001: A Space Odyssey" film (yes, it was film-ed):
An ape recognises a new tool.
Ape grabs it and smashes everything around with it.
Feels powerful, uses that tool to play, to kill prey, to kill other apes.

There is a fine line between "arghhh, I can do it", and "ought I do it?", which ape cannot recognise yet. People of 70, 100 or 150 years ago, didn't have tools we have today but they had vivid imagination to compensate and that is why those old images worked so well. Today, it seems the opposite is true.

So compared to the original "2001: A Space Odyssey", this is colour parody is same as "2001: A Space Travesty".

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 15 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
olyflyer
By olyflyer (8 months ago)

Exactly. Her work actually destroys some historical and dramatic values and converts tragical occasions into nice postcards.

0 upvotes
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (8 months ago)

Now, if you met her - face to face. Should you than have the guts to call her an ape that uses a tool to kill other apes?

1 upvote
Chillbert
By Chillbert (8 months ago)

What, exactly, was destroyed by this creative act?

1 upvote
Minolta4Life
By Minolta4Life (8 months ago)

nevermind the "critics", some people feel they haveto find fault in everything. Black and white is awesome because it gives us a sense of detachment being we don't view the world in b&w. to add color to the photos makes them more real and allows us to relate IMO.

8 upvotes
Paul B Jones
By Paul B Jones (8 months ago)

Not opposed on principle to this skill-requiring project but except for Anne Frank I don't see the colourized versions as adding anything of value to the world over the original black and whites. In fact, they look a bit like over-cooked HDR efforts.

0 upvotes
babalu
By babalu (8 months ago)

In Anne Frank's case I find the watermark "mygrapefruit" in the upper right corner of the background absolutely unacceptable and out of place ! Same is also true for the self-immolation of Thich Quang Duc.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Chillbert
By Chillbert (8 months ago)

@babalu - that is the first substantive criticism I have read in this thread, and now you call it out, I agree it's a mistake.

0 upvotes
jorge elguera
By jorge elguera (8 months ago)

Is it just me or she does justice to her name Dull - Away!!!!!!!!!!! Color in!!!!!!!!

0 upvotes
Sam Carriere
By Sam Carriere (8 months ago)

Why?

0 upvotes
Amateurbob
By Amateurbob (8 months ago)

Most of these pictures are for impact. What has more impact, the black and white or the color? Does the color distract from what the photographer was capturing?

5 upvotes
unknown member
By (unknown member) (8 months ago)

Originally I was impressed by the images but the more I looked at them the more critical I have become. I think the worst one is "Migrant Mother" followed by Lincoln. It was a rainy day in Southern California and I'm not understanding the blotchy golden tone the Swedish "artist" decided to use. I had to redo the image and I think it looks much more natural.

http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3801/9551209086_237054421f_o.jpg

1 upvote
Marla2008
By Marla2008 (8 months ago)

Your version is excellent, indeed.

0 upvotes
Zdman
By Zdman (8 months ago)

Much nicer.

0 upvotes
Chillbert
By Chillbert (8 months ago)

I like your version. Why the antipathy to the other artist. She is an artist whether you like her work, or not. As are you. And what's with the "Swedish" epithet? What's your problem?

Comment edited 8 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
ugotvijay
By ugotvijay (8 months ago)

If you did something from scratch, it would be commendable. Just taking an already completed work, nit picking and making minor corrections is not the same.

0 upvotes
unknown member
By (unknown member) (8 months ago)

Thank you Marla2008 and Zdman.

Chillbert I previously commended her for her skill, and still do, but no artist is exempt from critique. I think some of the images are really good, such as the Churchill, while others don't hold up to more than a passing glance. Also, what is wrong with addressing her as a Swedish artist? After all, the article does the same.

Ugotvjay I wouldn't say what I did was "nit picking" or "making minor corrections." Weather it was corrected from her version or not is irrelevant. Clearly it looks far more realistic, which was my point.

1 upvote
JDThomas
By JDThomas (8 months ago)

She sure likes that drab blue color.

I don't see that color adds any value or interest to these photos. Most of these images benefit from the abstract aspect that b/w gives the subject.

I could go through and point out the mistakes she made as well, but there's no point in it. If she wants to waste her time colorizing historical photos she can have at it. I won't look at it again.

0 upvotes
joe6pack
By joe6pack (8 months ago)

This is nothing new.

Someone have been adding colors to FILMS decades ago. Including famous movies like Casablanca. Hey, if someone can do it frame by frame for entire movie, he can do it for individual photo. What's the big deal?

What makes me uncomfortable is someone could be claiming the copyright of the colored photo.

3 upvotes
huyzer
By huyzer (8 months ago)

The "Thich Quang Duc's self-immolation (1968)" looks very realistic. Great work there.

3 upvotes
dash2k8
By dash2k8 (8 months ago)

Great skill on display. Forget the should or should not's for moment and just applaud her skills. Art is subjective so not everyone will like it. The fact that she made them look like the real thing is worthy of respect. Great job!

8 upvotes
mas54
By mas54 (8 months ago)

Just because you can doesn't mean you should. The greatest power comes from not doing something just because you can.

Creativity is the willingness to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. Great creativity. No art.

3 upvotes
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (8 months ago)

Very skilful done colorings, but ... she needs to pay more attention to reflections. The red of the fire in the burning monk image should light up the ground and make it redder. The water under the mushroom cloud should be grayer etc. At least if she wants to make it look realistic. But ... I really like most of the portraits. They get more 3D.

0 upvotes
austin design
By austin design (8 months ago)

But 1) the ground isn't lighter in the immolation, and 2) the mushroom cloud shouldn't make the water any grayer than do the regular cumulus clouds in the same photo (plus the mushroom cloud is principally over an island far in the distance and not entirely subject to water reflection). Realism in this case must be determined not by what you might EXPECT in the (redone) photos, but by what's actually IN the (source) photos.

0 upvotes
rfsIII
By rfsIII (8 months ago)

For those who want to know when color film appeared, Autochrome arrived in 1907 and Kodachrome was released in 1935; the first Kodachrome ISO was pretty low, around 10, but it was completely usable. Both Dorthea Lange and MBW were early users of color film.

0 upvotes
Imagefoundry
By Imagefoundry (8 months ago)

so many trolls...
The technical skill behind this project is considerable - just try to colorize any BW image and see where it lands you. Heck, most of you haters can't even take a decent picture in a first place based on what I see being posted in forums.

26 upvotes
skinnymakespretty
By skinnymakespretty (8 months ago)

I agree with you. all hate, all talk, yet no talent. lmfao.

2 upvotes
olyflyer
By olyflyer (8 months ago)

No doubt there is a need for technical skills to do it and no doubt that it is difficult work. But... for what reason and what is the additional value? Totally pointless for anything other than showing that "Look, I can do this."

As for the "Heck, most of you haters can't even take a decent picture in a first place based on what I see being posted in forums." My question to you, Imagefoundry is: Says who exactly? The person with empty gallery? Ha... ha... you made me laugh.

Considering you seem to hate the haters you also seem to have a lot of hate in you.

1 upvote
Pal2012
By Pal2012 (8 months ago)

Was a matter Olyflyer, bad childhood? Everyone was so critical of you? Or is it that you picked the wrong camera to use and are so cranky it is just leaking out of you like rusty contaminated water?
My Question to you, Who are you exactly? Not exactly the photographers eye brain trust? No just someone with low self esteem perhaps trying to put others down to make himself feel good?

What ever it is , put a clamp on it!

Comment edited 48 seconds after posting
1 upvote
mcshan
By mcshan (8 months ago)

Why is someone posting they prefer the originals deemed "hate"? Have we become that over sensitive that we cheapen the word "hate"?

1 upvote
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (8 months ago)

Just my opinion but the coloring makes the atomic bomb test a lot more lively. Almost like a travel brochure.

1 upvote
Eleson
By Eleson (8 months ago)

And scary just because of that contrast.

2 upvotes
sandy b
By sandy b (8 months ago)

They are well done and detract absolutely nothing from the originals, which believe it or not, are still BW, and still available for purchase. An interesting and sucessful experiment.

12 upvotes
dbateman
By dbateman (8 months ago)

I disagree. The blue car takes away from the main subject. Unless she would rather you look at the blue car.
The "happy" America also takes away from the main subject, the line of destitute people.

I think these are examples where I like the BW much better than the color.

2 upvotes
Seagull TLR
By Seagull TLR (8 months ago)

<The blue car takes away from the main subject.> What if the car was really blue...... http://zuluirminger.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/thich-quang-duc.jpeg

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
olyflyer
By olyflyer (8 months ago)

Seagull, I don't think you get it...

"The blue car takes away from the main subject. Unless she would rather you look at the blue car."

...or actually she succeeded, you are more interested in the car then the occasion the image documents, a burning monk who drenched himself in petrol and lit it to burn to death.

The "Happy" America is just a huge billboard. The poverty under it is all vanished.

I agree with dbateman, these images lost the drama and the documentary value and became beautiful, touristic post cards through her hands.

0 upvotes
xtoph
By xtoph (8 months ago)

The arguments here seem to range from 'let a 1000 flowers bloom' to 'how dare she', with some detours in between. In general i tend to side with letting artists experiment--but this isnt the same as painting a moustache on the mona lisa, which will never be confused with the original work. On the contrary, this seems to implicitly suggest that it is a 'better' version of the artist's intent (because it masquerades as closer to reality) than what we are currently stuck with, as if it were a restoration of a chapel fresco. That seems to be the gist of the many comments that 'the world is in color, bw is a manipulative lie'. 

This i think is the biggest issue: a fundamental misapprehension of what goes into bw photography. Yes, MBW looked out on a color world; no, she did not frame her subjects in color. All of these photographers knew what they were doing and worked in bw deliberately.
[continued]

4 upvotes
xtoph
By xtoph (8 months ago)

[from above]
Bw wasn't a technical limitation that held their work back, it was a creative tool they exploited for conscious expressive effect. the fact that some of them didn't have a practical option to shoot in color doesn't mean they really wanted to do so, relegating their actual efforts to the status of some kind of mistake or inferior draft of history. And even if they had a desire to make color photos, they crafted these with a different aim.

It is this covert subversion of the artistic expression of the original photographer, rather than the colorizer's overt and distinct original contribution, that characterizes the present incarnation of the photographs. I dont find that worthy of celebration.

To my eyes, the only one of these photos which seems to work as well in false color is the last one. (a better prepared bw version might change that.) the others all suffer by comparison.

Which begs the question.

3 upvotes
b craw
By b craw (8 months ago)

This is perhaps some of the most considerate and thorough commentary I've seen recently. And, that is not to say that I agree completely with you. But, I too, believe that shooting for b/w is to embrace different potentials, ones that use a specific visual vocabulary, and certainly ones not limited in impact. There continues, in the present, to be an interesting designed alchemy in producing b/w images, a measure of abstraction of the color that is readily seen and most familiar in our everyday perceptions.

0 upvotes
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