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)
Why is there an absence of blood in the colorized photos? Is that something you chose to leave out?
If you look at the original photographs there is no indication of blood or it is very minimal. Obviously it’s a black-and-white photograph but even then, it would not be red. If there were a major blood stain, it would be a dark portion of a shirt of uniform. One of the photographs that was hand-colored early on shows a fair amount of blood. The fact is that on the black-and-white photo there is no indication of blood. During the period, hand-colorized photos were sort of an aesthetic. It was added on some of the period shots I guess for drama. I did not go out of the way to hide blood but there was just no indication.
What is the reaction you hope people have when looking at the colorized photos of the Civil War?
The purpose of this is to show that people 150 years ago were not very different from us today. It will hopefully bring forth an era that’s only two long lifetimes ago. This is 150 years not 1,500 years. It was just as colorful then. People were just as real then. I hope that people will look at these photographs and get a more realistic feeling of what happened at that time.