This stunning array of colourised photographs showcases a bygone era. Amongst them is a photograph of Union soldiers in 1863 during the American Civil War. Another one shows Madison Square in 1900. Most like a pilot receiving a haircut beside his plane during the Battle of Britain represent prosaic yet enlightening scenes.
With my penchant for history and especially photographs of history, these photographs gripped my imagination. The technique used was rudimentary as it involved manually adding colour to black and white negatives. Foremost amongst the question that I would like to ask, is how long it took to colourise one B&W photo.
Main picture: Bridge and Promenade, Bedford
The Campanile was erected to commemorate the landing of the 1820 Settlers and is situated at the entrance to the railway station and docks in Strand Street, the spot where it is said the settlers landed in Port Elizabeth. The architects were Jones & McWilliams with construction starting in April 1921 and it was completed in October 1923.
These 40 photographs span the period from the advent of photography to the 1970s. They provide a glimpse into another world. For me, the most revealing photographs are those of the nineteenth century and the early 1900s. Being almost alien in the 21st century, I find them both enchanting and repulsing in equal measure.
Main picture: a wood-plank prison in Wyoming, 1893
The past always seems so idyllic, so serene, and so sublime. The reality of day to day life is more prosaic, more challenging and far crueller. For instance the use of horse and carriages raises a number of questions. Firstly consider the welfare of the animals. In ancient and not so ancient wars, more bemoans the tragic loss of human life but what about that of the animals especially the horses. The movie The War Horse puts the atrocious treatment of horses during WW1 i.e. only a century ago into perspective. But what about another factor which had to be born with equanimity by the population especially those residing in the cities – the streets caked with horse excrement!
Main picture: A Normandy Beach landing photo they don’t show in textbooks – Brave women of the Red Cross arriving in 1944 to help the injured troops, WWII.
Probably our grandchildren will have the same response when they view our adverts or even movies such as Star Wars. It is highly likely that the Beatles will sound tinny and David Bowie will look nerdy. They will possibly be amused at rap, wondering why an artist would talk through a song instead of singing. Ironically shoulder length hair for men will probably be in vogue again as well as bell-bottoms.
Main picture: How can the PC Police claim that this advert is sexist. Rather it displays concern for the welfare of one’s wife. Surely!
This series of historical photographs is certainly exceptional. From a slave auction place, circa 1870 to a snapshot of New York in 1887 looking more like modern day Mumbai with telephone wires strung from every pole. I am curious about the slave auction place being dated as 1870 because slavery was abolished at the end of the American Civil War in 1865 unless this is a remnant of that event. Another of the insightful pictures of a bygone era, is a photograph of an opium den in America as it is evocative of the opium scourge in China itself during this era.
Main picture: An opium den in San Francisco, 1900
Of these 50 historical photographs, I have personally only seen half a dozen previously. Hopefully you will also find these as interesting as they offer an insight into how our ancestors lived.
Main picture: Locals carrying a Rolls Royce in Nepal in 1950
The first student protest in South Africa occurred 50 years ago on 8th April 1965; these were not some radical English speaking students from Wits or UCT but rather conservative Afrikaans students. Their grievances related to mother-tongue education and the removal of liberal lecturers. Contrast this protest with the #FeesMustFall campaign in October 2015 when students once again held protests in Pretoria.
Main picture: The caption reads South Africa First Continue reading
Some of these photographs are profound but most are mundane. Whatever they are, they afford us an opportunity to take a peek into the past. Each in their own way, offers but the merely glimpse into that past.
Main picture: 1924 – Friends in Ohio enjoy a ride in their new car