The Past in Color: Bringing Old Photographs to Life

Did you ever stop to think that the black and white photographed world of the past actually occurred in color just like today? Sanna Dullaway, an artist from Sweden, gave us a glimpse of what this colorful world looked like. Dullaway took old, iconic pictures and colorized them using Photoshop. She cleaned up the photos and converted them from black and white to her own interpretation of what the colors may have looked like. “I did not want to ‘improve’ nor ‘replace’ the photos I DID colourize as some of you may think. I just wanted to show you a new perspective of the black & white old world, it used to be in colour, too. I thought famous photos would touch most hearts,” Dullaway said on her deviantArt profile, Mygrapefruit.

With the colorization of these photos Dullaway gives us a glimpse of the world as it actually was before. In essence you are able to see through the eyes of the original photographer and what they actually saw. So often, we see these photos and detach from them, unable to relate to a time so far away; but to see the photos as if they were taken yesterday puts us in that world and gives us back a sense of humanity. In a way, these photos are like an eery time machine, putting the viewer in the room with these people who have long since passed.

Dullaway doesn’t just work with iconic photographs: she recently started a restoring and coloring business for clients who want their old family photos reworked. Though it may seem simple to add some color and clean up a few marks, Dullaway takes a lot more into account when restoring these old images. Everything from the age of the person, the shadows in the room, and the glow from the sun come into play in her work. On her website she described the process as being so much more than just making the grass green, but that every tone, natural saturation and hue are accounted for in order to give the viewer a true idea of how the person in the photograph lived. “Older images are often of very high quality and you’ll be surprised how much information is left and can be rescued by the damaged images,” she said on her website. Her company website can be found at

Via: Imgur Photo Gallery

There are 7 comments

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  1. Richard D

    What a pointless waste of time and creative energy, as you are clearly a good retoucher. Why ruin these beautiful classic B/W photos by Lange and Eisentaedt by turning them into bland modern colour. B/W has a power and dignity and mystery which way surpasses colour… leave it alone, or just do peoples grandparents or whatever
    Richard D

  2. Mr.T

    @Richard D: You’re talking absolute rubbish. The whole point is that the colour photo is side by side with the original black & white, so you can see both. I can’t stand people that think that a different interpretation from what they’re used to is “ruining” something. Different people like different things. Grow up.

  3. Matty

    The black and white says one thing and the colour says another. It really draws the attention to the idea that these were real people. Einstein didn’t walk around in greyscale; he was a breathing, vibrant man. This project represents that beautifully.

  4. Patrick Lang

    @ Richard D, read the artist’s quote in the very first paragraph, in which she addresses your (rather pointless) argument.

  5. Zach

    Neat idea, I do have ONE issue though. your images of Gettysburg are incorrect. The trousers are NOT Tan or Brown but a kersey sky blue. I am not certain how you analyze the colours, but just thought I’d let you know.

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