Sunday, March 20, 2016

Colourised Historic Photos, Part 3

Old black and white photographs often have a charm that adds to their being a record of past or historical events. On the other hand, colour has an immediacy that makes the image more real. It is therefore interesting to see old black and whites in a colourised format. Continuing the series, here is Part 3 . . .

Girls delivering ice, 1918 

Black and white version


· The above photograph originally had a caption: “Heavy work that formerly belonged to men only is being done by girls. The ice girls are delivering ice on a route and their work requires brawn as well as the patriotic ambition to help."

· One commenter has drawn attention to the fact that the males are referred to as “men” whereas the females are “girls”. The attitude and sexism inherent in such terminology is as dated as the subject matter.

· The comment does however draw attention to the fact that when men go to war, jobs previously carried out by them are often left to the women to do, as in the above photo.

· Until the 1930’s when refrigerators came to be introduced into homes, food items were preserved by use of iceboxes. These items had a compartment at the top that held a block of ice, with meat, dairy products, fruit and vegetables being kept on shelves and compartments below the ice.

A. Old Norwegian icebox. The ice was placed in the drawer above the door. 

B. Typical Victorian icebox highboy model. The model is made out as a fine piece of oak furniture with tin or zinc shelving and door lining. 

C. An oak cabinet icebox that would be found in well-to-do homes. There are fancy hardware and latches. Ice goes in the left upper door. This model probably has a pull-out drip tray.

· Frequently iceboxes had hollow walls that were lined with tin or zinc and packed with various insulating materials such as cork, sawdust, straw or seaweed. Ice had to be replenished continually, originally by horsedrawn ice wagons and later by truck.

· Pollution of ponds and waterways by contaminants and sewer runoff resulted in ice that was often toxic, hence ice from those sources (collected in winter and stored in icehouses) gave way to commercially produced ice.

· An item of interest: The Australian band Icehouse was originally called Flowers but had to change its name when they signed for overseas releases so as not to be confused with a Scottish band The Flowers. They chose as their new name the name of their first album, Icehouse, which was also the name of a track on the album. The song had been written by the band’s Ira Davies when he was living in an old, cold flat of a two-storey mansion in Lindfield. Across the street was a dishevelled house which had its lights on all night peopled by short-term residents. Davies only learned that it was a half-way house for psychiatric and drug rehab patients after he wrote the song.

Burger Flipper, 1938 

Black and white version


· Despite the Declaration of Independence’s assertion that all men (there we go with gender specific language again) are created equal, the US does not have a proud history of acting on that premise. Young people today would have difficulty imagining a past time that practised segregation and had institutionalised discrimination. Segregation was not universal in the US, it was practised mainly in the Southern States.

· Young people may find it equally difficult to visualise a time when burgers were made on the spot according to the order placed, with crisp lettuce, fresh tomato and fresh buns, not pre-made and wrapped awaiting a purchase.

Winston Churchill, 1941 

Black ands white version


· The above portrait by Yousuf Karsh is one of the most reproduced photographs of all time. It was taken in the Speaker’s Chamber after Churchill had address the Canadian Parliament.

· According to Karsh:
"My portrait of Winston Churchill changed my life. I knew after I had taken it that it was an important picture, but I could hardly have dreamed that it would become one of the most widely reproduced images in the history of photography. In 1941, Churchill visited first Washington and then Ottawa. The Prime Minister, Mackenzie King, invited me to be present. After the electrifying speech, I waited in the Speaker's Chamber where, the evening before, I had set up my lights and camera.

The Prime Minister, arm-in-arm with Churchill and followed by his entourage, started to lead him into the room. I switched on my floodlights; a surprised Churchill growled, "What's this, what's this?" No one had the courage to explain. I timorously stepped forward and said, "Sir, I hope I will be fortunate enough to make a portrait worthy of this historic occasion." He glanced at me and demanded, "Why was I not told?" When his entourage began to laugh, this hardly helped matters for me. Churchill lit a fresh cigar, puffed at it with a mischievous air, and then magnanimously relented. "You may take one." Churchill's cigar was ever present. I held out an ashtray, but he would not dispose of it. I went back to my camera and made sure that everything was all right technically. I waited; he continued to chomp vigorously at his cigar. I waited. Then I stepped toward him and, without premeditation, but ever so respectfully, I said, "Forgive me, sir," and plucked the cigar out of his mouth. By the time I got back to my camera, he looked so belligerent he could have devoured me. It was at that instant that I took the photograph."

· Churchill later said to Karsh “You can even make a roaring lion stand still to be photographed.” Thus, Karsh titled the photo, The Roaring Lion.

· Although the photo above is the image from the shoot that would go on to become world famous, Karsh’s personal favourite portrait from the shoot is one captured later on, which shows Churchill with a lighter mood and a smile on his face:

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