I am not a fan of colorization.
When Ted Turner raised the specter of “colorizing” Hollywood classics back in the day (I’m pretty sure “the day” here refers to the early-mid 1980s), I was horrified. Scandalized. You do not take an artist’s work and scribble on it with your magic markers, because you think it might make you some money. Just: No.
However, I am an enormous fan of found-color-photography, such as these stunning photos out of a Wyoming internment camp for Japanese Americans or these equally stunning shots of small-town American life, circa 1939-1943 — that is, color photography that few people guessed existed, and which provide us a much better glimpse into the lives that people actually lived.
And then I recently found a colorized picture of our sixteenth President, and it did my head in.
I’ve seen colorized photographs of Abraham Lincoln before, and my response has always been — Just: No.
Either he looked like someone had applied rouge, or I felt someone was essentially making fashion choices for someone they’d never met, or – whatever. Just: No.
But something about the subdued, very realistic rendering of the coloring of his face and hair, and the fact that his suit has been left a crisp (and, by my lights, appropriate) black had me just staring at this picture, and suddenly seeing everything I know about Lincoln in color. His wife, his children, his walk to his law office in Springfield, the drapes in the White House. It made him – bigger, somehow. Fuller. More real? More real. Because that Legendary Lincoln we’ve built lives in black and white — but Lincoln lived in color.
So anyway, here’s the shot – I’ve printed it out, and it now hangs right next to my desk. I wish I could hear his voice, too.