Photo Interactive: The Civil War, Now in Living Color
How one author adds actual blues and grays to historic photographs
- By Ryan R. Reed
- Smithsonian.com, February 22, 2013
(Courtesy of Prints & Photographs, Library of Congress)
Talk about the application of photographs during the Civil War? What was the process?
They used various media to do it. Everything from ink to pastels to color crayons, anything that would impart some level of color to it. Usually the medium that was the most transparent [like watercolor] was the most effective, because they allowed the detail of the black-and-white photos underneath to actually show through.
From very early on, there was always an aim to try and colorize photographs to make them more real. The only option was to do some sort of hand colorizing. If you look at some of these old photos many of them are not very good but there are a few of them that are absolutely rather remarkable. When you realize the relatively small palette that these people had to deal with and the fact they had to do this all by hand it must have been an absolutely strenuous task to undertake at that time.