The leaders of Ireland’s 1916 Rising; Irish ancestors who immigrated to Australia at the turn of the century; Marilyn Monroe sipping an Irish coffee at Shannon Airport. Thanks to photographs, we can picture all of these moments and people, but, beautiful as they are, there’s something about black and white images that can make the scenes they depict seem even more distant in time.
Matt Loughrey, an Irish photographer in Co. Mayo, has started a breathtaking photo project titled ‘My Colorful Past,’ for which he takes iconic images from the past and brings them to life in vivid color.
"Colorization was always something I wanted to teach myself and a good place to start was the photograph collection at my family home. I took to colorizing a photograph of my late Grandmother Josephine and that's where it began,” he told IrishCentral.
“I have made use of software since the 1990's in light of graphic design and digital art, and by far I’ve found colorization to be the most involved process to date. Any given photograph will take in excess of four hours to complete faithfully, occasionally up to 12 hours.”
So how does it work? “Color selection is based solely on mathematics, in that red noise elements are very much apparent in any given monochrome image, the closer the elements are together signals to me the darker the shade,” he explained.
“At this point I employ logic and research of the era to make the accurate color choice. The colorization itself is by digital pen and softlighting using layers.”
Both archival groups and private clients have been taking note, leading Loughrey to work on a wide range of images, from Australia to Alabama.
“Building this as a venture has been a lot of fun over the last year, it has brought my work to the attention of the Sydney museum, the Kennedy space center and even Ireland's GAA,” he said.
“In the short term I hope to engage more with National Libraries both here in Ireland and abroad and bring colorization to their respective collections"
Indeed, one of the projects he’s been the most excited about is access from the National Library of Ireland to commons photography of the leaders of Ireland’s 1916 Easter Rising.
After spending dozens of hours colorizing portraits of all of the Proclamation signatories as well as Michael Collins, he’s said he’s especially proud to share these images in color for the first time ever ahead of the centenary.
His colorcast of Michael Collins delivering a speech in Cork also recently made it to Ontario and into the hands of Larry Carroll, one of Collins’ living descendants.
“To portray best the art of colorization it is vital to select unique characters, eras and events. The more complicated the photograph, the better the end result,” Loughrey explained.
“There is a factor of great respect when you are working on these pieces, especially commission pieces for individuals. Essentially you are looking at family members of the past, friends and loved ones. You have to do it justice and the feedback to date from clients is rewarding.”
Enjoy the following video of all of his colorcasts to date, and visit the My Colorful Past Facebook page to stay updated on Loughrey’s work.
My Colorful Past
People have shared and commented on my work here over the last while. A lot of that is down to the efforts and advice afforded by Caroline Ryan at Stair na hÉireann - History of Ireland. It's a very therapeutic process to study faces and places for hours at a stretch and my perception of history has morphed. you ask many questions of yourself too. Please enjoy some of my work to date in this video, Any given monochrome image will take between three and five hours to colorize faithfully, sometimes far longer. My colorful past is open for business and you can reach me here.Posted by My colorful past on Saturday, February 20, 2016