I’ve been playing with the idea of hand-coloring photographs for quite some time. But it has been mainly daydreaming about it, researching it, being fascinated with it, without actually doing it. Somehow I’ve been looking to discover the real reason I want to hand-color; to give shape to my ideology of hand-coloring first of all. Or maybe I’ve been afraid to ruin the prints 🙂
Before the advent of color film, hand-coloring served the purpose of adding color to black & white images. It was meant to restore reality where it was still technically lacking. And as happens with all photography tools, when technology finally catched up with a possibility, people embraced it for all the practical purposes but also disregarded it f0r art’s sake. Since the 50s, hand-painting on monochrome images has been happening for different reasons, mainly to alter the original color, to make a statement, or to embrace the aesthetics of times past.
Here are some approaches to hand-painting that have fascinated me the most:
My favorite is Kathy Vargas‘s palette that somehow speaks “colorful monochrome”.
Jan Saudek‘s mix of real and unreal.
Aline Smithson’s seductive green.
I have yet to find, though, a hand-painting approach using watercolor. Yes, there are some artists who use watercolor to hand-paint, but that has been in the same way as if it were oil, not in its own terms; certainly not taking advantage of watercolor’s unique features. If you ask me what this should mean, I have no answer myself. But here is something that I’ve been thinking and working on.
The still life above is a van dyke print on heavy-weight cold-press watercolor paper. To the rusty tonality of van dyke, I wanted to add saturated red, green and orange, some of the dominant colors associated with the “old film” aesthetics. But I wanted the flowing feel of watercolor. I wanted subject matter that “bleeds” and that bleeding to make sense for the color. As a working term and until I find something better, I’ll give it the name of “coloring outside the lines”.
Still looking and poking around. But feel free to comment and critique. And let me know of your favorite examples of hand-panting photographs!