Some of war’s more light-hearted moments have been given a new lease of life after being expertly colourised.
The incredible images show Allied soldiers mocking Adolf Hitler from his famous balcony at the Chancellery in conquered Berlin, Sherman tank crews watching a boxing match between two soldiers in Sicily and Maoris of ‘C’ Company, 28th Maori Battalion of the 2nd New Zealand Division perform the ‘Haka’.
Other striking shots show animals during the war as an American corporal aims a Colt M1895 atop a Sri Lankan elephant, puppies greet Marine tanksman Private Bruce Rutherford as he returns from Okinawa and Unsinkable Sam, the only cat in WWII to have served in both the Kriegsmarine and the Royal Navy.
The black and white photographs were painstakingly colourised by design engineer Paul Reynolds (48) from Birmingham, UK.
“Often, I try to choose photos that show an unusual side to the war, or photos that make you want to know more about the image you’re looking at,” he said.
“I think photos of this kind always benefit from being colourised. I think had the photographers at the time had colour equipment more readily available they would have used it.
“My favourite photo there is probably the Sherman tank commander cleaning his Thompson Sub machine gun whilst surrounded by puppies; so cool.”
Paul first started colourising with a family photo of my great Grandmother and progressed from there. He explained his other favourites in this set.
“My favourite story there is about Unsinkable Sam the ships cat, the only cat in WWII to have served in both the Kriegsmarine and the Royal Navy,” he said.
“The Marine on an Elephant photo is an eye catcher. It gets people talking and debating on my Facebook page as to whether it’s a viable tactic or just Marines having fun.”
Michael D. Carroll is a journalist and author with a particular interest in historical photography.
From his base in Birmingham, UK he directs bespoke press agency mediadrumworld.com, and through his work at the agency, Michael came into contact with the thriving community of colourisors of historical images.
After placing several colourised history features into the national newspapers in the UK, he enlisted the support of this community to publish Retrographic, the first book to present a specially curated selection of iconic historical images in living colour.
“Rightly, many people, including the colourisation artists I have worked with, have a deep respect and feel strongly about the aesthetic value of black and white in framing the subjects in such a way as to make them more ‘classic’ and ‘timeless’,” he says.
“Psychologically we attach to the black and white medium a huge amount of baggage associated with our conception of the past, and a simple example of this in our digital experience is the use of black and white filters on our mobile devices, or Instagram accounts, to create a vintage feel to our images.
“Even if they were only taken seconds ago, adding black and white to the people in the pictures suddenly makes them look like they could be from a remote period in history. It can be argued that the addition of colour to black and white has the reverse psychological effect, making them feel more contemporary and less detached from the present.
“Many of these images are so famous, they are part of the tapestry of world civilization and will be familiar to nearly everyone.
“However, when something familiar is made unfamiliar, in this case through the addition of colour, the viewer is invited to consider the object as if for the first time.”
With the support of ambassadors from the world’s first society for photographers, the Royal Photographic Society, UK, images and reviews on Retrographic have been featured in newspapers and online zines, including the Daily Mail, Telegraph, Times, Fstoppers, War History Online, and ePHOTOzine.
The book has recently been taken into the private collection of London’s prestigious Victoria and Albert Museum, in recognition of its contribution to the history of photography.
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