On Turning 34 and Colorized History

As Coralie mentioned on Monday, my birthday was on the 4th. With every passing year, my feelings regarding my birthday become more complicated. I am extremely grateful for the bounty of love in my life- from friends and family. My life is filled with deep riches on many levels and I am proud of the experience and knowledge I have collected over 34 years. But, my birthdays have also become periods of deep reflection about my place and purpose in the world. I don’t want to bore you with further ruminative musings about life and getting older, but I did want to share something with you guys that fascinates me and adds a different and pertinent slant to my view of the past and present.

There is a place on the internet called Reddit. Many of you may have heard of it, but for those who haven’t, I’ll tell you that it is a social platform that allows users to submit content in different areas of interest called, “sub-reddits.” That is a simplistic definition, but one that will serve my purposes without going down the rabbit hole that is the nuances of Reddit. On this site, there is a sub-reddit called “Colorized History.” It is a community of people who take old black and white photos and colorize them. Some are better than others, but what I find remarkable is how the addition of color can completely alter the impact of some images. There is a grace and dignity to black and white photos. It can convey solemnity to a scene or focus our eye on certain aspects of the frame composition. But, for quite some time, black and white photos weren’t an artistic choice, but the only option. So, what would happen if we could colorize old photos? Again, I want to point you this site so that you may peruse the archives, but I did want to share a few of my favorite examples to entice you to dig further. All the credit information is in the photo tag. Click through for larger versions AND to see the original on which they were based. balletHere is a photo of the dancers of The American Ballet taken in August of 1924. Nineteen. Twenty. Four. Look at how vibrant and current this photo feels. Sometimes having a photo be in black and white detaches us from the vibrancy of life that is in a photo. Sometimes, looking at old photos or movies makes me sad and pensive because it occurs to me that every single person in this photo has passed away. Every single one of these ladies who had their own rich and complex lives full of birthdays, friends, and laughter are gone. Just as one day I will. I try not to dwell on it, but (again) this birthday has unearthed some feelz.


Here is Helen Keller meeting Charlie Chaplin for the first time in 1919. Again, these photos amaze me. It feels like this was taken yesterday. The light on Chaplin’s face, the warmth of the day… it feels so real and current to me.


Here is a picture of the boardwalk at Asbury Park at the Jersey Shore in 1905. The white dresses are so crisp and it feels like you could reach out and touch the parasols. I’ve seen that color sky and beach in my lifetime. It just reinforces how so much changes and yet so much stays the same.

custerHere is the staff of Andrew Porter with George A. Custer reclining next to a dog in 1862. Those boys. That dog. All gone. But look at their vibrancy. You know those boys. They become real through color. You could see them on the street today. They liked puppies and beer; they posed for photos and feigned seriousness with their friends. Just like I’ve done.

My intent with this post was not to bum anyone out, but to point you towards an amazing resource and look into our past. If anything, it is to subtle remind you how quickly our present turns into the past. Uggh. Birthdays.

What do you think? Do you buy it? Does color make that much a difference? As always, let us know!





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One Comment

  1. Until I read this I never thought about the fact that WW Two soldiers always had the “colorized” memory!

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