So the current fad right now appears to be colorizing old black and white photos. This has seems to be annoying many people who appear to be equating the colorization with vandalism and are treating it as an affront on the source material.

I’m finding the discussion a bit amusing since many people appear to be reacting emotionally to the point where they stop making logical sense and end up making arguments which start to sound like the people who are against fair use.

In a general sense, colorizing old photos does not offend me. There’s a general problem in that I haven’t seen anything super interesting about them since they’re always presented as “OMG it’s IN COLOR” clickbait rather than having a point. If the color doesn’t convey any useful information besides looking cool, there’s really no point.*

*I wouldn’t mind seeing colorized military photos and other items where the colors meant something. But then we have paintings and things from those times for that information already.

Besides, we have enough unexpected old color photos to tide us over. We even rediscover them repeatedly.* So I’m not sure what point the colorization often has to begin with.

*Add the Paris autochromes and Nazi-occupied Poland to the mix here.

Which brings us to the parts of this that do bother me.

First, I fear that the colorization—especially once the photos become taken out of context as being about the colorization—will confuse people who don’t realize that the photos are colorized. Distinguishing between real color and made-up color is going to be something that we’ll have to be on our toes about. The more colorized photos get published instead of actual color photos, the more likely this confusion will become.

Which brings me to my second problem with these. It’s apparent already that many people don’t realize how old color film is and think that anything pre-1970 was black and white. When the mindset that color photos are hard to find so we’ll show some colorized ones instead creeps into the press? The implied laziness does offend me. Do your research and don’t lie to us.

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at, and the web at

6 thoughts on “Colorization”

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