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Thursday, 05 August 2021


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I always heard it as "six-of-one/half-a-dozen-of-the-other".

Kind of makes more sense...

There's a woman photographer in the USA who has a freezer full of dead birds. She photographs them in black and white and then hand colours the resulting prints. Beautiful work.

I'll probably remember her name in the middle of the night.

Well, this would depend on what you define as hand-coloring. If you strictly mean "colorizing" a B+W print, the way old B+W movies are colorized (an utter disgrace, but also an argument for another day), then I agree.

But I know that there are thousands of artists and art students doing or dabbling in it to make mixed media works, some subtle and many not.

One of the first, and most lucrative, art photo sales that I made was a hand-colored B/W print. I had applied Marshall's oils on a small test print of a landscape and showed it to friends. One of them commissioned me to make a larger version of it. They made an offer that I couldn't refuse.

I don't have a photo of the final version that sold, but I did keep the original test print that led to the sale.

Frankly, I didn't pursue it much afterward. With the gelatin silver printing papers and toners available in the early '80s, there was still room to incorporate color into B/W work to satisfy the itch.

"Japan 1900: A Portrait in Color."

One of the surprises I find in being old(-ish) is the change in time perspective.

When I was in Japan in 1960, 1900 seemed ancient. 1960 is as long ago now as 1900 was then, but doesn't seem so ancient.

It won't be long before WWII is as long ago as the Civil War was when I was a little kid.


It wasn’t the added colour that I found most affecting in Peter Jackson’s, They Shall Not Grow Old: It was the added sound. Sound that gave more life to the men in the trenches than colour ever could.


I've never liked hand colored photographs either. I have a bunch of them, old Family Photographs taken in professional portrait studios mostly from the 1930's & 40's. Many of those studios offered it as an 'up-charge' Perhaps I'/ve never seen 'Good ones. The nice smooth tones of large format negatives and classic lenses were quite lovely when left alone. Although many show almost too much smoothness because of pencil retouching.
I went to New York Institute of Photography in the 1960's. They offered a Commercial Photography Program, a Portrait Photography Program and a Dye Transfer Printing Program. They were located right near New York's Photo district. The Commercial Program was excellent, The Portrait Photography Program was a bit dated, they were still using 8x10 Rembrandt Portrait cameras (tailboard cameras with no front movements -other than the slight down angle of the stand) split backs for 2 5x7" frames on a sheet of 8x10 film. And yes, they taught Marshall's oil coloring. I Got a Job in a commercial studio halfway through the portrait course, so never learned the finer points of 'Hand Coloring"

Are instructions available for The Basics of Digitally Hand-Coloring Black-and-White Digital Images? (Computer only!) Thought that it might be fun to try colorizing the scans of some monochrome 19th century images.

I have all 5 of Ansel Adam's books on techniques and little of it is relevant today, IMO.

I remember back in the late 70s the big thing was to have dye transfer prints made where the printer would hand color the matrices to, for example, turn a purple leather jumpsuit into a yellow leather jumpsuit. Just exactly who was the printer was a closely held secret. A messenger would show up at the art director's office and a couple days later a FedEx package from Boston would show up. "we'll have that guy in Boston fix it" was the equivalent of "we'll fix it in photoshop" Actually the Scitex era was in-between. The difference was that the guy in Boston charged about double the day rate for shooting an album cover so it was reserved for when a reshoot was out of the question not simply expensive.

My wife and I are perfectly matched in all but one area. I love black and white. She hates it.

I guarantee she'd choose hand coloured over black and white, 10 times out of 10.

So... where's this movie theatre full of colourists that I keep hearing about?😊

Many years ago a friend showed me his hand colouring technique. Basically he soaked small twists of crepe paper in water to give him the colors he wanted

The LP cover of Ziggy Stardust is a nice example of hand colouring. I like the kind of hand colouring they did in the days before colour prints, i.e. when that was the only way to get a colour photo. I also like the type of slightly unreal colouring that is done in Afghan portrait studios. On the other hand I particularly dislike the typically heavy handed approach that most people seem to take when they use software to colourise photos. There might even be algorithms that do it now.

Here are some of the modern hand colorists:




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