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Gorgeous color photos of America in the 1930's and 40's

By dpreview staff on Aug 18, 2013 at 13:00 GMT

World War II and Depression-era America was mostly documented in black and white. That's why these color photos of the time belonging to the Library of Congress are so engrossing. Shot in color at the same time as more widely recognized black-and-white photos, these images offer a vivid look into American life in 30's and 40's. We've picked a few favorites of the more than 1500 images total contained within the Library of Congress' Flickr account.

Photo by Alfred T. Palmer. Operating a hand drill at Vultee-Nashville, woman is working on a "Vengeance" dive bomber, Tennessee. 1943 Feb.
Photo by Jack Delano. At the Vermont state fair, Rutland. 1941 Sept.
Photo by Jack Delano. A welder who works in the round-house at the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad's Proviso yard. 1942 Dec.
Photo by Jack Delano. Barker at the grounds at the Vermont state fair, Rutland. 1941 Sept.
Photo by Howard R. Hollem. Lathe operator machining parts for transport planes at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation plant, Fort Worth, Texas. 1942 Oct.
Photo by John Collier. Sailor and girl at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Washington, D.C. 1943 May.

We've definitely advise you to take a look at the full set on Flickr. The Library of Congress invites the public to tag and comment on the photos if they have more information about them.

Comments

Total comments: 110
ljmac
By ljmac (7 months ago)

This is proof of how much colour adds to a photo. The current trend in PP of "black and white equals art" is massively overused, and usually detracts more than it adds.

1 upvote
AlpCns2
By AlpCns2 (8 months ago)

One word: superb. It takes real skills to pull this off with ultra low speed transparencies.

2 upvotes
Paul Storm
By Paul Storm (8 months ago)

thanks for this post, i'm really impressed with Jack Delano, had never heard of him but really good work, in my opinion even better than Walker Evans.

0 upvotes
MandoBear
By MandoBear (8 months ago)

I find many of these images far more captivating and interesting than the "colourised" iconic photos done by Sanna Dullaway in the next news item.

Somehow, these photos capture something of their age, rather than attempting to "come up to date".

0 upvotes
jmmgarza
By jmmgarza (8 months ago)

Thanks for sharing the color pix. I still prefer B&W, even today.

0 upvotes
lds2k
By lds2k (8 months ago)

I usually think of the 30s and 40s in b&w but I will admit most of these are very pleasing and do not detract from the era.

3 upvotes
Ettishole
By Ettishole (8 months ago)

Made me realize that when I think of the past I do generally think of black and white stills and not the color that things appeared in.

1 upvote
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (8 months ago)

Great stuff. Makes me wonder what digital photography would look like if your memory card only held a dozen shots and each one cost $5.

6 upvotes
Lightpath48
By Lightpath48 (8 months ago)

I celebrate this color, long before the garish days of Velvia, followed by over pushing saturation and vibrancy sliders.

1 upvote
Raincheck
By Raincheck (8 months ago)

One of the most striking things about all these shots over at flicker is how hard it is to find pictures of hordes of fat pigs wallowing around at the circuses and fairs, dressed in tee shirts and stretch pants. With the notable exception of The Fat Lady, of course. I'm jealous of a time where you could get candid shots of Americans enjoying leisure time without filling the frame with round blobs all dressed the same. Ahhhh... the colorful gayly printed skirts and dresses blowing in the breeze...

Beam me back Scotty.

15 upvotes
sdribetahi
By sdribetahi (8 months ago)

You must be a super model yourself.

1 upvote
JackM
By JackM (8 months ago)

@sdrbetahi, no, he is probably just capable of making good choices.

3 upvotes
AlpCns2
By AlpCns2 (8 months ago)

Yep - those were the days before Government convinced itself it knows all about "healthy eating" and one-diet-suits-all. As a result, the average citizen in the West -including the US- made better nutritional food choices, wasn't fat- and cholesterol phobic, and was able to cook for themselves. Result? A healthy, slim population not beset with all the "modern welfare-state" ailments and deceases.

2 upvotes
Frank_BR
By Frank_BR (8 months ago)

>the average citizen… was able to cook for themselves.

That remembers a verse of the Merle Haggard song "Are the good times really over for good?". He says he misses the times "when a girl could still cook and still would". I bet the girl that operated the lathe in the picture could cook! Interestingly, the girl's arms and hands were dirty with oil, but the nails were painted! Today, most girls cannot cook anymore, but they put on fake nails made in China…

0 upvotes
austin design
By austin design (7 months ago)

AlpCns2, what an ignorant, Tea Party-esque statement, blaming the government's health initiatives for American obesity -- instead of the private sector (Coke, Burger King, etc.) that literally fuels it. At the same time, you guys criticize the efforts of Bloomberg to combat the insidious effects of sugar in Big Gulps and the like. If you're going to spew reactionary nonsense,you could at least be consistent about it.

1 upvote
jaygeephoto
By jaygeephoto (8 months ago)

It's nice any time that old photographs are brought out for viewing. There's nothing wrong with image restoration whether it's an old painting or photograph taken on film. Because of the technical limitations of the equipment and media methods and styles were much different than today - that's stating the obvious I know but based on some of the inane and nasty comment posted here it needs to be said. Time travel through photography is like no other.

0 upvotes
tinternaut
By tinternaut (8 months ago)

What I find remarkable is the quality of the colour in some of these photos. Yes, it's different to the colour in films of the 80s and 90s, or the colour from modern digital sensors, but nevertheless the quality is good.

1 upvote
mr moonlight
By mr moonlight (8 months ago)

The quality is good because for the most part, color photography in those days was done by using 3 different B&W frames with RG&B filters and stacking them afterwards. It's basically what the ideal would be for a digital sensor.

1 upvote
Claude Jodoin
By Claude Jodoin (8 months ago)

Yes, and it's called a Foveon X3 sensor. Been around for 11 years now and is currently the sharpest APS-C sensor in the world and the only one that works like film.

1 upvote
NetMage
By NetMage (8 months ago)

Except the Foveon doesn't have a choice of filters so it can have some cross-color effects a true three filter setup would not.

0 upvotes
Stpix
By Stpix (8 months ago)

This is incorrect:

"The quality is good because for the most part, color photography in those days was done by using 3 different B&W frames with RG&B filters and stacking them afterwards"

The color images in this collection were mostly Kodachrome transparencies (color slides). Nothing like Foveon at all. Shot as one exposure on a single frame of film.

I used to shoot Kodachrome back in the 70's. Beautiful fine grain images but slow ASA 25. It was even slower back in the 30's & 40's.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
Lawrence33
By Lawrence33 (8 months ago)

Do you mean, like 4x5 with an AsA of 10 ?
That was than, this is now.
The era of B.D. and egos " ... I just took 7489 images this week and I only had three days to do it in ... " I've done the math and some of these people don't sleep.
Still make my living at it and having fun too.

0 upvotes
madeinlisboa
By madeinlisboa (8 months ago)

Funny how a 70 year technology is much better than today's smartcraps...

7 upvotes
diolus
By diolus (8 months ago)

Go here to see these photos in hi res.
http://www.shorpy.com/

0 upvotes
Hugo808
By Hugo808 (8 months ago)

Clearly the whiners on here haven't followed the link to Flickr and checked out the whole set.

A fascinating glimpse into the past, and some really nice land and cityscape shots which mean that I'm not exactly breaking new ground....

2 upvotes
ConanFuji
By ConanFuji (8 months ago)

These shots are very nice.

3 upvotes
ftphoto
By ftphoto (8 months ago)

Considering the limitations of color film at that time I find the shots interesting and they also provide a slice of Americana in a by-gone era. It never hurts to review our photographic past, but also to place it squarely in a historical perspective of what was taking place in the world at that time. Thanks DPreview for sharing these with us.

2 upvotes
JackM
By JackM (8 months ago)

I love photos like these. Which is why I still shoot film every now and then.

2 upvotes
Mikhail Tal
By Mikhail Tal (8 months ago)

What's so gorgeous about these photos? They aren't nearly as vibrant, sharp, and contrasty as modern digital photos. They look just as dated as anything else from a bygone ear. Film is dead.

0 upvotes
jrk
By jrk (8 months ago)

That's about the dumbest thing I've read on this forum yet.

35 upvotes
Serenity Now
By Serenity Now (8 months ago)

No see jrk you have to first check in with the forum's standards in humour committee to check if Mikhail isn't being sarcastic and side splittingly funny.

4 upvotes
Scott Birch
By Scott Birch (8 months ago)

Some people just don't like bygone ears.

8 upvotes
Lensahand
By Lensahand (8 months ago)

Ear ear!

On a serious note, having colour available turns these photos into a window to the past. Black and white is fine and has it's place, but generally speaking colour really makes an image come alive.

2 upvotes
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (8 months ago)

Doncha ever wonder how they pulled these off with no autofocus, no autoexposure and very low ASA--I mean ISO. I'll bet being a professional photographer meant more than just owning an expensive camera. And making prints, especially early color prints took real skill and an incredible amount of time.

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

"Film is dead".

Is it now. Better get the undertaker in then to bury the 5 rolls of Velvia I bought last week!

'

0 upvotes
Saleen1999
By Saleen1999 (8 months ago)

This is some of the most amazing photography I have seen. I love the colors. Outstanding work.

2 upvotes
Frank_BR
By Frank_BR (8 months ago)

The pictures show that those photographers were not too concerned with getting crazy shallow DOF or "artistic" bokeh :-)

7 upvotes
chj
By chj (8 months ago)

It's becoming a pet peeve of mine. While I do appreciate good bokeh shots, I think shallow DOF is becoming overused. Often I feel like it's taking the easy way out. Instead of having to compose an entire photograph, just focus on a subject and blur the hell out of everything else. Also, from my experience, the average viewer does not appreciate bokeh, they wonder why half the shot is blurry. It's a photographer thing, because photographers know to get decent bokeh costs at least $1000.

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

None of the shots above would have been appropriate for use of shallow DOF anyway. Just not a consideration with these shots. They are documentary style photos of the time.
Nothing wrong with nice shallow DOF when appropriate

3 upvotes
Mikhail Tal
By Mikhail Tal (8 months ago)

Everything wrong with ugly shallow DOF when inappropriate. Which is way too often on DPR.

1 upvote
oselimg
By oselimg (8 months ago)

Could it be because photographers appropriately wanted to show the environment too? Or do you think shallow DOF was invented with the advent of digital cameras?

1 upvote
ManuelVilardeMacedo
By ManuelVilardeMacedo (8 months ago)

Shallow depth of field is something you have to deal with when shooting large formats or 35mm film. It may come as a surprise to some, but with that kind of equipment it is actually harder to keep sharpness in every plane than to get the so-called bokeh. With film it is usual to use very narrow apertures - say f/8 and f/11 - in order to increase depth of field. And even then it's hard to avoid that some portions of the image appear out of focus.
There's no science in taking pictures with lots of bokeh. Making photographs with back-to-front sharpness is the real challenge when using larger formats. 110, APS and now crop sensors made it easier to get sharpness across the picture and harder to get 'bokeh'. No wonder newcomers believe 'bokeh' is a difficult technique.
So, despite the fact that many photographers in the film days used narrow depth of field with creative purposes, what we've got now with 'bokeh' is a technical error being promoted to artistic status. Oh well.

2 upvotes
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (8 months ago)

The shallow DOF thing will pass. Like the "HO train" effect and hopefully, extreme HDR and over sharpening. People can't get enough of these things and next thing, they're gone. Even a lot of the more wacky plug-in filters for Photoshop will come and go. Anybody want a star effect filter?

1 upvote
NetMage
By NetMage (8 months ago)

Once light field is common, you can choose your preferred DOF when viewing :)

0 upvotes
rfsIII
By rfsIII (8 months ago)

I have been searching the used equipment section of camera stores for MONTHS looking for a 77mm star effect filter. I've been in three states and haven't found one yet in any size. So, yes, I do want your star effect filter.

0 upvotes
walkaround
By walkaround (8 months ago)

This is news? These photos have been online for a decade.

2 upvotes
Leandros S
By Leandros S (8 months ago)

This story was posted to forums in August 2010 http://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/2844944 http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/35940570 via Denver Post, and Imaging Resource in May 2013 (Jack Delano only): http://www.imaging-resource.com/news/2013/05/03/the-rhythm-of-the-rails-jack-delanos-iconic-1940s-images-of-trains

Some of the same images have been Featured Pictures on Wikipedia starting July 2007, being on the front page in November 2007, February and November 2008.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rosie_the_Riveter_%28Vultee%29_DS.jpg
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:WomanFactory1940s.jpg
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wwii_woman_worker-edit.jpg

The last one is a digitally retouched version.

So yes, it's a story that's been bumped about the internet news outlets for at least the past six years.

4 upvotes
BigBen08
By BigBen08 (8 months ago)

Glad they bumped it again.

6 upvotes
Lawrence33
By Lawrence33 (8 months ago)

Nothing ever dies on the internet. - You have been warned -

0 upvotes
citizenlouie
By citizenlouie (8 months ago)

The simplest way to appreciate arts is to take an art class, and put your own hands on the project from beginning to finish. Some of people here who don't appreciate them because they've taken things for granted by their easy-to-use DSLRs. Once they understand the whole film taking/develop process, they'll know even the smallest things like metering, focusing, selecting the direction of light, select correct focal length to use (e.g., something like do you want to use a 50mm and stand 3 feet away from the subject or a 75mm and stand 6 feet away), and choosing the correct films for correct lighting/effect are distinctions between a skilled photographer and an unskilled one. Some immature people just like to put down other people's effort in order to hide their inner insecurity or lack of aptitude to learn.

12 upvotes
Benarm
By Benarm (8 months ago)

Interesting, but many of them look staged.

2 upvotes
graybalanced
By graybalanced (8 months ago)

Sigh...typical of DPReview comments. Of course they look staged. If you know anything about photography back then, you had few other choices.

Shooting in color in the 1940s isn't like picking up a D800 today. Color film was slow, color slide film more so. That's why you see only a few kinds of old color pictures: Outdoors in full sun, or indoors with powerful artificial lighting. Or the one of the welder, which was only possible in low light because the exposure was very long.

The lathe operator pic had to be staged because your chances of taking a candid were zero. With the color film they had back then, you'd need a powerful light angled just the right way to get that shot. And don't count on rapid strobe recycling times, that hasn't been invented yet. You'd better stage that flash shot as carefully as you can, or you're getting nothin'.

What's next, DPReview shows color autochromes from the 1920s and the first comment is "What's with all the Instagram crap filters?"

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
36 upvotes
Ahmet Aydogan
By Ahmet Aydogan (8 months ago)

@graybalanced, thank you for thoughtful informative comments. I find these photographs completely engrossing, "staged" or not. They are slices of a time and of time long gone. We are so lucky to be able have them available at all, let alone online for everyone to see. Thanks to DPReview for bringing them to our attention.

8 upvotes
Bob Meyer
By Bob Meyer (8 months ago)

Yes. the original Kodachrome slide film was ISO 10, and the eventual 35mm version started at ISO 16. (Actually, ASA, not ISO, but most of the people here would only be confused if I had written that).

9 upvotes
Mescalamba
By Mescalamba (8 months ago)

Even much later variants of Kodachrome were 25 and that very popular kind was 64. Not too fast really.

But great..

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

ASA 10? Who are you kidding? Kodachrome movie film in 1945 was ASA 6 !!! Not that super-fast stuff at ASA 10! Makes you think twice when you switch to ISO 3200, doesn't it? We've come a long way baby!

6 upvotes
citizenlouie
By citizenlouie (8 months ago)

Yes, they're staged, like graybalanced explained already. And I'm going to add a little art history here. In the beginning of photography, it's considered as an inferior art form than painting, so many photographs were mimicking paintings in term of aestheticism. The trend of "straight photography," that is, shoot photos as photos, instead as a subjugate form of painting is a relatively modern notion (IIRC, it was under people like Edward Weston and Stieglitz who made people realized photography is a separate art form).

Isn't it ironic that pioneers of photography took so many decades to establish the photography as a legitimate art form only to be reduced by people who shoots rubbishes due to the wide availability of easy-to-use cameras and smart phones?

The purpose of art is to promote thinking. If even the artist himself doesn't think when he creates, what kind of art could you expect?

7 upvotes
Rick Knepper
By Rick Knepper (8 months ago)

So, basically, many of you are confirming that the OP's observation was correct and astute, yet you are trying to belittle him. Now that's the typical DPR response.

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

Rick, I believe it was the original poster's intent to not only observe the staged nature of the photos, but cast a negative tone about that characteristic - the use of "but" implies a negative qualification of the initial clause. In any case, staging was not only a technical issue, but consistent with much of the documentary photography of the time (not all of it of course, e.g. battle scenes). A decade of so before both Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange were producing photos with a staged quality. And I appreciate the comment in this thread pointing out the relationship between photography and the more established art aethetic of painting. Although, ironically, by this time much painting dealt in non-objective form, not figurative scenes.

Bottom line for me: these images bring rich rewards aesthetically and provide, in color, a more immediate contemporary feel, producing in much of their current audience (what I image is) a relatable human subjects. This, in spite of a any perceived staging.

0 upvotes
marike6
By marike6 (8 months ago)

We have no idea if they are staged or not. It's not like they were shot on Daguerreotype in the 1870s where the subject couldn't move for 10 minutes. It's Sunny f16 in these photos.

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

A quick exposure calculator check indicates ISO 10 and f/16 would yield 1/4 sec exposures even in sunlight... let alone indoors.

0 upvotes
Lawrence33
By Lawrence33 (8 months ago)

Never heard of " .... that's it, hold it ! ..." ?
You really are younger than you sound.

0 upvotes
M Lammerse
By M Lammerse (8 months ago)

@ mick232

They are digitized...so that's a way of processing.

1 upvote
Mescalamba
By Mescalamba (8 months ago)

Digitized, repaired and color re-balanced/fixed.

And really interesting..

1 upvote
b craw
By b craw (8 months ago)

In this case, the digital processing seems careful to support and complement the original dynamics of the film exposure.

2 upvotes
clicstudio
By clicstudio (8 months ago)

Gorgeous and amazing photos! They almost look recent.
Makes u realize the "real" photographers were those, 70 to 80 years ago, who shot manual and film and without an LCD screen to help and no photoshop.
I really admire them and the glimpse of Americana their photos show. Color makes the whole difference.
Thanx for sharing!

7 upvotes
mick232
By mick232 (8 months ago)

These pictures wouldn't look like they look without Photoshop. I am sure they are postprocessed.

3 upvotes
calking
By calking (8 months ago)

Uh, yeah. They were B/W originals, so ...

0 upvotes
Optimal Prime
By Optimal Prime (8 months ago)

@calking

They were shot In colour.

0 upvotes
Revenant
By Revenant (8 months ago)

No, they were not B&W originals; they were shot in colour.

6 upvotes
Provia_fan
By Provia_fan (8 months ago)

The text clearly says:

"Shot in color at the same time as more widely recognized black-and-white photos, these images offer a vivid look into American life in 30's and 40's. "

You know, slide film has been around for a looooong time and in those days photographers were more inclined to use larger formats, so it's no surprise these pictures look the way they do without photoshop. Plus they were true technicians and artists of lighting.

That kind of response is what really gets on my nerves about the younger or newer generation of photographers. All they know is the imediacy of digital and Photoshop, most never had to cherry pick the right film for the right circumstances (yes there were several varieties of film for certain applications) or to print in a darkroom or seen first hand the maximum quality you could get from a frame of film, particularly in the larger formats. With all due respect, READ A BOOK!

17 upvotes
Scott Eaton
By Scott Eaton (8 months ago)

With all due respect, get a life. Anytime old photographs are displayed on Dpreview we have an onslaught of film zealots picking away at digital -vs- analog and otherwise using their computer to complain about computers. Seriously, unplug, and go away.

Fact is, that many years ago photographers had little choice in what options to use, and had a dSLR been available -vs- kodachrome they likely would have picked a dSLR.

As it is, it took a film scanner (a digital camera that takes pictures of film) and several computers to transpose these images into a medium (digital) than others can view (digital internet). This was the only way to get these images away from the shoebox / archive they were stored in. It's uttery hypocritical to glorify a medium which was so difficult to reproduce to be seen by the masses while at the same time complimenting their ultimate display. There's a reason most people don't think color tranny existed in the early part of the 20th century, and this is why.

7 upvotes
mauritsvw
By mauritsvw (8 months ago)

Provia_fan, I totally agree with your viewpoint. And voila, after a few minutes you get a reply that totally proves your point about younger people. What a shame that on the internet the term younger/newer generation has come to actually mean the rude/disrespectful generation.

2 upvotes
Bob Meyer
By Bob Meyer (8 months ago)

Scott, did your boss fire you today? I don't see anyone glorifying film over digital. I don't know what the heck you're referring to, but I think you need to go back and reread the posts, then count to 10, and come back and apologize for your rant.

And oh, by the way, we had lots of ways to view photographs before the web. Magazines, museums, making multiple prints from a negative and sending them to people, projecting slides on a big screen (way more engrossing than viewing images on a little 17 or 20" monitor, btw).

Digital is great, but don't think it's the be all and end all of photography, or that the modern generation invented photo sharing.

5 upvotes
citizenlouie
By citizenlouie (8 months ago)

@ Scott Easton

Yes, some of the older photographers, if were given a new DSLR of today, would definitely use the newer format. But they won't use it as a point and shoot and hoping one shot would come out right. Beautiful photos like these were not achieved by coincidence, because you need to know your lighting theories inside out. Back then, because of the limitation of their equipments, pro photographers were actually considered skilled workers.

2 upvotes
fortwodriver
By fortwodriver (8 months ago)

Hah! Magazines? I remember most magazines at one point or another butchered images by using poor offset registration and lousy quality control at the presses. Bring on digital, you can always re-scan a transparency/negative with whatever technology exists "now" and leave the past (ie: re-souping and internegatives) behind.

0 upvotes
mick232
By mick232 (8 months ago)

I don't think anyone would like to start a discussion about old vs young generations here.

But the initial post is not neutral - it makes a judgement, claiming that photographers back then were just better photographers.

Which I find ridiculous. Photography can be ambitious in any period. Back then it may have been ambitious to take a color photo.

80 years from now, people may say: "look at those gigapixel images they created in 2013. Huge effort with the material they had back then; they had to take hundreds of exposures, using nodal point adapters and the like, and align the parts using software. Today I take a gigapixel image with my cellphone."

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

Do you send all your meals back at restaurants?
Yours maybe the single dumbest and snobbiest post I've read in months. Many magazines, most notably National Geographic, were reproducing color photographs via rotogravure (intaglio process) at the time that these photographs were taken. The 'masses' (just who the hell are the masses anyway?!), were able to look at these images for free at most public libraries. "Holy s**t, where's the the GD Tylenol?!"

0 upvotes
Ferling
By Ferling (8 months ago)

I, for one, use both formats, and my old employer rightly decided on digital for reasons of convenience and cost. Film is unforgiving, and certainly requires some thinking and skill for repetitive success. There are so many things that can wrong with film, that winding up with a great shot does earn one some pride, and respect.

However, you really can't judge a person so harshly for not having an experience with film. To them, it's the "old and obsolete" format, and frankly digital is quite good these days. My first pro digital camera was a 1Ds mk 1. Before Adobe had tools like camera raw and LR to deal with it. With film you could slow down and take your time. Not with digital. I worked like a dog shooting several sets a day, because I could. Instant gratification also meant same or next day turn around. The entire experience was of mixed emotions. I nearly burned out in the first year.

I feel blessed to live in age to have experienced both.

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

If one steps back to observe the relative delights of both digital and film, then both can be seen as most appropriate or favorable based on context. Personal preferences aside, and that is not to belittle those, the choice of one over the other can be based on a logical evaluation of need(s).

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

Having cut my teeth, so to speak, in photography in a time of wider appreciation of film, yet excitement for the future of digital, results in my current thinking questioning the desperate need for exclusivity.

1 upvote
b craw
By b craw (8 months ago)

It also might be useful to observe that in this case, the post-processing digital, appears careful to stay relatively true to the initial film exposures. I've had the fortune to see other slide film produced around the same time in person, and this is the basis of that opinion.

0 upvotes
Roger Engelken
By Roger Engelken (8 months ago)

Thank you for sharing these beautiful images of a pivotal era in the history of this nation. It is truly beautiful to see these images in color, both of war time and of peace time. It is through efforts such as this that we can look back and see those times, the very times that shaped this nation in the decades to come. Kodachrome and film in those days took a great deal of effort, and the results produced are a gift to the ages. Thanks again for sharing these and the link. I was not aware of their existence.

9 upvotes
Ferling
By Ferling (8 months ago)

I remember at my day job as a Staff photographer, finding some old boxes of early product shots done on Kodachrome by my predecessor. He primarily used sheet film, shot through large format Cambo's. Which we sold in favor of digital for it's speed and cost savings. Coming from a film background, and occasionally shoot MF negative in Portra. I could understand the extra time and effort it took for him to achieve some wonderful results. Though outdated product, the images had a life and depth to them. However, it was no match to appease the impatient generation of quick, instant and easy.

Film takes work, and especially in the early days, with only rudimentary meters, was like flying without instruments. I'm certain those great shots were more skill than chance.

When I do shoot film. I still catch myself "gimping" (looking for the preview of the shot) only to see the box tag, clipped to the back of the camera to remind me what film was inside it. :)

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
7 upvotes
mckracken88
By mckracken88 (8 months ago)

thanks for the link - old timey pics in color are AWESOME.

1 upvote
Jon Stock
By Jon Stock (8 months ago)

The online photographer did an article about old Kodachrome

http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2013/08/the-color-disease.html

This site sells prints of hundreds of 4x5" format of Kodachrome color photos, and other library of congress pictures:

http://www.shorpy.com/Large_Format_Kodachromes

0 upvotes
neelin
By neelin (8 months ago)

4x5 Kodachrome stands the test of time.

3 upvotes
Hobbit13
By Hobbit13 (8 months ago)

These (amazing) photos have been online for ages (Wikipedia uses them in many articles). So what's the "news"?

I'm still deeply impressed by the image quality of the "Turret lathe operator ", even for today's standards, that's a very high resolution picture.
see full image at:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1a/WomanFactory1940s.jpg (uploaded in 2005!)

4 upvotes
1singur
By 1singur (8 months ago)

Let's not be rude, dude, not all people are aware of these things. It is ok to resurface things from the past every now and then.

13 upvotes
Timmbits
By Timmbits (8 months ago)

I agree - although it's not "news", I wasn't aware of it.

4 upvotes
chj
By chj (8 months ago)

first time I've seen them, great photos

4 upvotes
Digital Keen
By Digital Keen (8 months ago)

Rude

0 upvotes
Karroly
By Karroly (8 months ago)

I have taken a look at the "Turret lathe operator" picture. Even though this picture has been taken with a medium format camera, what puzzles me it the total lack of noise in the shadow areas and total lack of film grain on the whole frame in spite of a pretty good resolution (one can see the weft of the fabric). Moreover, all the 1940's color pictures I have seen so far (a lot about World War II) do not have such a good color rendition and quality. I am curious about the post-processing tool used here...

0 upvotes
Juck
By Juck (8 months ago)

Yeh,, shaddap Frodo you jerk.

1 upvote
Mark Smith
By Mark Smith (8 months ago)

Karroly
These aren't MF they are large format.The quality shouldn't puzzle you, the other shots that had less resolution were probably on 35mm.
If you held a 4x5 or 8x10 in your hand would you wonder about what PP was used?
Somehow I think we have a generation that think these are not possible and this must be a digital 'trick'

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

Thanx for the full res link.

I can't believe the perfect exposure and lighting. The colors are a little dull, of course, but virtually noiseless.
Incredible. Even my Canon 1D X with 24-70 II would have trouble capturing such an image...
Amazing!

0 upvotes
mausta
By mausta (8 months ago)

If these are from the library of congress I strongly doubt there is any post processing. Do you think Ansel Adams photos need post processing to look good, of course not, so why would these color photos need post processing?

0 upvotes
Bob Meyer
By Bob Meyer (8 months ago)

There was no such things as "noise" in the digital sense on these films. Kodachrome is virtually grain free in large formats, and what folks today thing of as noise is a digital artifact that doesn't exist at all when shooting film.

0 upvotes
citizenlouie
By citizenlouie (8 months ago)

@mausta

Ansel Adams is known for his painstakingly made post-processing skill. Back in the days, post-processing was done in dark room, not Lightroom. That's the only difference. However, when he shot them, he already knew what he was going to do in dark room, how to crop, how to meter so the photo would be underexposed/overexposed to save highlight/shadow detail. Post-processing, is as old as photography itself. Though some of us are minimalists, but I don't deny the usefulness of PP, especially when your medium has limitation. I find it repulsive only when it's abused. An experienced photographer should integrate PP (if needed) as part of the process, rather than as a fix of a badly shot photo.

0 upvotes
fortwodriver
By fortwodriver (8 months ago)

Agreed...

Except that Ansel, throughout his books repeatedly admits he made many mistakes and a lot of his techniques were borne out of the desire to salvage poor negatives. His earliest photographs were almost entirely produced by guesswork and experience. Many pieces were shelved for years as unprintable because the types of paper and chemicals he needed simply didn't exist yet. Throughout the years he re-printed and reprocessed his existing collection with new print materials and techniques to try and refine his vision for whatever he saw. He was very humble when it came to this sort of thing.

0 upvotes
mapgraphs
By mapgraphs (8 months ago)

There is some amazing work in these collections, by some of the best known names in photography, and complete unknowns... There's more:

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/

Thanks for posting.

1 upvote
FrankS009
By FrankS009 (8 months ago)

For those of us born after the second world war, it sometimes seems that life up until its end took place in black and white. These photos are not only good images, but a reality check.

F.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
10 upvotes
Richard Schumer
By Richard Schumer (8 months ago)

"These photos are not only good images, but a reality check."

I assume these shots were on early Kodachrome -- the only film I can imagine being available at the time. It had an ASA (now ISO) rating of 10. To shoot available light on a factory floor on this stuff is more than amazing: It is genius.

I know, I used Kodachrome in the fifties; my Weston Master exposure meter would not measure below EV3 or EV4 so the exposiure must have been a guess.

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
1 upvote
clicstudio
By clicstudio (8 months ago)

Not a guess, I believe. Just a true master of light.
There was no cheating back then.

2 upvotes
expressivecanvas
By expressivecanvas (8 months ago)

This is SO MUCH better than that crappy website with the crappy photos of the defunct Bolivian airline... Thanks for writing about and sharing this DPR.

3 upvotes
bigdaddave
By bigdaddave (8 months ago)

Try here, way better

www.shorpy.com

4 upvotes
M Irwin
By M Irwin (8 months ago)

Indeed!

0 upvotes
Bob Meyer
By Bob Meyer (8 months ago)

Nice, but not really relevant to an article about COLOR photographs.

0 upvotes
IKB
By IKB (8 months ago)

bigdaddaves comment is very relevant as Shorpy has been publishing high resolution versions of these colour images from the LoC for years along with a huge number of hi-res B&W images dating as far back as the American civil war. A great site well worth a visit.

2 upvotes
bigdaddave
By bigdaddave (8 months ago)

Bob, if you had bothered to check shorpy has hundreds, if not thousands of color images too, including 5x4 Kodachromes from the war

0 upvotes
Total comments: 110