Thursday, December 20, 2007

Colorized Old Photographs

Moorish cafe, Tunis, Tunisia - Late C19

I'm particularly fond of old travel photos that have been colorized. On one level, color gives the sense of immediacy - of realness - of modern photography. In contract with that sometime remoteness in old black and white images. But on the other hand, the harmonized sepia palette has an other worldliness. The result is a curious tension. Though maybe this is only to modern eyes.

Arabs Before a Cafe, Algiers, Algeria - Late C19

In fact, there is something else I really like about these works. It's the self-consciously managed composition. As opposed to something more candid and spontaneous. This undisguised organization seems a throw-back to early photography's attempts to be taken as a serious art form. By following the tenets of some current painting. The following early photograph is composed like a C17 Dutch Still Life painting.

Calvert Richard Jones 'Garden Implements', 1847

The point should be made that there is a palpable difference between setting up the people and the props of a scene to obtain the perfect composition, and looking for that 'right' balanced (often momentary) composition.

Fishermans' Boat on the Lake, Tiberias, Israel - Late C19

Luce Ben Aben, Moorish women preparing couscous, Algiers, Algeria

Distinguished Moorish women, Algiers, Algeria

Arabs playing chess, Algiers, Algeria

As well as travel images, I've recently come across a number of old colorized portraits.

Bedouin Shepherds - Late C19

Hammersdorf, Hermmanstadt i.e., Hermannstadt, Hungary, Austro-Hungary

Girl of Sarajevo, Bosnia, Austro-Hungary

This is one photographic genre that today can still legitimately deploy a certain formalism.

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