The Civil War, Now in Living Color

The Civil War was the first American war to be documented on film, but those photographs are in black and white. John C. Guntzelman wants to change our perception of those scenes with his book The Civil War in Color: A Photographic Reenactment of the War Between the States, featuring dozens of photographed meticulously colored in Photoshop. Guntzelman talks about how he did it, and why he did it.

The purpose of this is to show that people 150 years ago were not very different from us today. It will hopefully bring forth an era that’s only two long lifetimes ago. This is 150 years not 1,500 years. It was just as colorful then. People were just as real then. I hope that people will look at these photographs and get a more realistic feeling of what happened at that time.

Smithsonian has more on the book, plus an interactive feature that lets you switch back and forth and compare several images in their original black and white and color versions. Link

(Image credit: Prints & Photographs, Library of Congress)


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The poor quality of the color work is defeating the purpose here. It looks like he didn't spend more than ten minutes colorizing this. The entire field of trees is one flat shade of green, there is one shade of blue, one shade of flesh, one brown. Nothing in life is so perfectly uniform. These pictures look less lifelike to me than they do in black and white.
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