Painting the Roses Red

April 14, 2019

HMS Titanic in Southampton (!912), Photographer Unknown
Colorized by Marina Amaral

What is wrong with this picture?  The photograph shows the HMS Titanic at the docks in Southampton on April 1, 1912, two weeks before the ship sank in the North Atlantic on its maiden voyage.  Yes, the image was Photoshopped, but none of the details of the original picture was altered.  Hint: The picture was taken nearly a quarter century before the introduction of color film. And although color processes were around when the Titanic sailed, they were not in widespread use.  The original black-and-white photograph of the Titanic (see below) was colorized more than a century after the boat sank. 

I am of two minds about colorizing black-and-white photographs and motion pictures. On the one hand, color lends immediacy to images that would otherwise appear distant in time in their original state. However, as a college history major, I know that colorizing or otherwise altering historically significant artifacts is an adulteration.  This is true even if the colorized image is probably closer to what the photographer saw than the picture he or she actually took.  Adding color to black and white fine art photographs or old movies gives me similar pause. Color was not the medium the artist was working in and might well spoil the finished work.  I have seen some of Ansel Adams’ iconic prints after they have been colorized, and they are pretty ghastly.     






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