Recently, I came across an article “World War 2 in color: 44 eye-opening photographs” via the Smithsonian Magazine.
There’s nothing new about the photographs, subject-wise. We’ve seen variations of them. But, that they were in colour added the punch.
We’re so used to seeing “old” photographs in black-and-white or sepia. Yes, there’s a timeless quality to these tones – and many artsy photographers/artists try to capture the now in black-and-white and sepia to convey that sense of timelessness. Yet, that “classic” feel makes the image inert, as the article says. It makes “a moment becomes a museum piece, a thing of the past, something that happened to somebody else, something that has no bearing on our present”.
Sometimes, we forget that “the past” was once a living, breathing and dynamic moment. Those people had lives, feelings, and hopes, just like we do. With the passage of time, it’s easy to forget that, and the amnesia is compounded by photography – a moment in time, snapped and encapsulated in perpetuity. Over time, the stereotypes and stories are fossilised, and then gradually taking on a life of its own that could well be far from what its “original” was.
The world past is a colourful one too. Just because it hasn’t been shown to be doesn’t mean it’s not.