See Historic Figures as If They Were Alive Today (Photo Gallery)

Colorizing black-and-white photos a fine art
By Benjamin Kim, Epoch Times
June 7, 2014 5:44 pm Last Updated: June 5, 2017 4:29 pm

Dana Keller colorizes historic photos, bringing Abraham Lincoln, Louis Armstrong, and other historic figures to life. He helps modern people connect with the past. 

"Alex", 1923. A prize winning police dog who "smokes cigarettes n' everything.
“Alex”, 1923. A prize winning police dog who “smokes cigarettes n’ everything.”

"Alex," colorized by Dana Keller
“Alex,” colorized by Dana Keller

Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong, a portrait colorized by Dana Keller

Audrey Hepburn, a portrait colorized by Dana Keller
Audrey Hepburn, a portrait colorized by Dana Keller

Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn

“There is an element of detachment that we have from historic black-and-white images. It’s as if they are only shadows from a time too long ago for any of us to remember,” Keller wrote on his website. “With our modern eyes, we are somehow disconnected from the real and vibrant world those photos are actually portraying. By adding color to these images of history, the viewer is brought a little closer to the reality in which they were taken.”

Civil Rights March on Washington, 1963.
Civil Rights March on Washington, 1963.

Civil Rights March on Washington, 1963, colorized by Dana Keller
Civil Rights March on Washington, 1963, colorized by Dana Keller

Coney Island
Luna Park Promenade on Coney Island, New York, ca. 1905.

Coney Island
Luna Park Promenade colorized by Dana Keller.

A boy protects his face from dust in Cimarron County, Okla., in 1936.
A boy protects his face from dust in Cimarron County, Okla., in 1936.

A boy protects his face from dust in Cimarron County, Okla., in 1936., colorized by Dana Keller
A boy protects his face from dust in Cimarron County, Okla., in 1936., colorized by Dana Keller

He is working toward becoming a historical archivist. His hobby of colorizing old photographs has earned more than 16,000 likes and a community of followers on his Facebook page. 

Boys buying Easter flowers in Union Square, New York City, 1908.
Boys buying Easter flowers in Union Square, New York City, 1908.

Boys buying Easter flowers in Union Square, New York City, 1908, colorized by Dana Keller.
Boys buying Easter flowers in Union Square, New York City, 1908, colorized by Dana Keller.

 Girls help deliver ice on Sept. 16, 1918—work usually done by men—to help out during WWI.

Girls help deliver ice on Sept. 16, 1918—work usually done by men—to help out during WWI.

 Girls help deliver ice on Sept. 16, 1918—work usually done by men—to help out during WWI, colorized by Dana Keller.

Girls help deliver ice on Sept. 16, 1918—work usually done by men—to help out during WWI, colorized by Dana Keller.

Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln, 1865.

Abraham Lincoln, 1865, colorized by Dana Keller.
Abraham Lincoln, 1865, colorized by Dana Keller.

“Color establishes a renewed familiarity with the past,” Keller said. “Color can force us to instantly see an old photograph with a new perspective, and make it seem as if the past it portrays wasn’t that long ago after all.”

Damage done by the earthquake in San Francisco on April 18, 1906. At Stanford University, a statue of Louis Agassiz fell 30 feet and pierced the concrete.
Damage done by the earthquake in San Francisco on April 18, 1906. At Stanford University, a statue of Louis Agassiz fell 30 feet and pierced the concrete.

Damage done by the earthquake in San Francisco on April 18, 1906, colorized by Dana Keller.
Damage done by the earthquake in San Francisco on April 18, 1906, colorized by Dana Keller.

Slivers, the Baseball Clown, ca. 1904 Legendary circus performer Frank "Slivers" Oakley, ca. 1904. Known for his "One Man Baseball Game"
Slivers, the Baseball Clown, ca. 1904
Legendary circus performer Frank “Slivers” Oakley, ca. 1904.
Known for his “One Man Baseball Game”

Slivers, the Baseball Clown, ca. 1904 (Dana Keller)
Slivers, the Baseball Clown, ca. 1904 (Dana Keller)

While Keller adds new life to old photos with colorization, some modern photographers enjoy the challenge of shooting in black-and-white. On a Digital Photography School forum online, photographers share some reasons they love black-and-white. 

Waldwick Train Station, ca. 1903, in Waldwick, N.J.
Waldwick Train Station, ca. 1903, in Waldwick, N.J.

Waldwick Train Station, ca. 1903, in Waldwick, N.J., colorized by Dana Keller.
Waldwick Train Station, ca. 1903, in Waldwick, N.J., colorized by Dana Keller.

The Titanic sank on April 15, 1912. On April 16, Outside the White Star Line offices in London, newspaper boy Ned Parfett sells copies of the evening paper bearing news of the disaster. Six years later at age 22, Parfett was killed during a German bombardment whilst serving in France, just days before the end of WWI.
The Titanic sank on April 15, 1912. On April 16, Outside the White Star Line offices in London, newspaper boy Ned Parfett sells copies of the evening paper bearing news of the disaster. Six years later at age 22, Parfett was killed during a German bombardment whilst serving in France, just days before the end of WWI.

Ned Parfett selling copies of a newspaper with the news that the Titanic sank, colorized by Dana Keller.
Ned Parfett selling copies of a newspaper with the news that the Titanic sank, colorized by Dana Keller.

Shane wrote: “I find that colors can be terribly distracting in some images and can take the focus away from your subject. I do portrait work and find that taking the color out of an image lets the subject speak for themselves. Its raw, it’s stripped back, it’s honest and it allows you to show the true person.” 

Jim wrote: “I love the subtlety of tones that black and white images can have. In a world that often boasts about how many millions of colors a TV or monitor is able to produce—I love that in ‘mono’ there is such a variety of what can be achieved in a photo. Black and White sounds so boring—but the fact is that there are so many shades in between. I love the challenge of bringing them all out in an image!”