The world was not black and white until the 1950s. We know this, of course, but sometimes, it’s difficult to put the images that shape our perceptions in this context. The history of war photography can take us all the way back to see Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, the architect of Napoleon Bonaparte’s downfall. Most of us can only imagine seeing the people of this era in the form of a painting, but paintings are meant to be dramatized, to be surreal, not true to life.
Of all the sections available on reddit, few are more engaging and interesting than r/ColorizedHistory (also, now available via Twitter).
The contributors are both amateur and professional artists, taking historical photos — both famous and lesser known — and adding true color to them, using a mixture of natural talent for color and historical research. their work is not limited to military photos, but there are many to be found there. Here are some of their best, in color as vibrant as human history itself.
1. Civil war veterans at Gettysburg anniversary. A Union veteran and a Confederate veteran shake hands at the Assembly Tent, 1913.
2. This is Nashville from the Capital building during the Civil War in 1864. Colorized by Sanna Dullaway.
3. Here is a group of boot-blacks surrounding an old Civil War veteran in 1935 Pennsylvania. Colorized by Sanna Dullaway.
4. This portrait of President Abraham Lincoln was taken toward the end of the Civil War, in Feb. 1865. Even without color, one could see the toll the war took on the president. In color, the hardship seems drastic. Color by Redditor zuzahin.
5. This 1899 photo of shipmates boxing on the deck of the USS New York was brought to life by Ryan Urban.
6. British troops on their way to the Western Front, 1939.
7. This photo was originally taken in San Francisco the day after the Bombing of Pearl Harbor. Also colorized by Sanna Dullaway.
8. These British soldiers are wearing gas masks to protect their eyes while peeling onions at Tobruk, Oct. 15 1941. Color by Jared Enos.
9. “Here lies an unknown English Lieutenant killed in air combat.” Western Desert, Egypt, 1941. Color by Lalz Kuczynski.
10. Below is the crew of the USS Hornet manning their 40mm guns in 1945.
11. A Stuart light tank, fitted with a hedge cute and heavily sandbagged against ‘panzerfausts,’ supports U.S. infantry in the bocage, July, 1944.
12. An American medic treats a badly wounded German soldier.
13. Russian children watch the Luftwaffe bomb their city during Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union.
14. A typical Marine aid station on Saipan, during the Pacific War in 1944. Color by Jared Enos.
15. The face of an 18-year-old Russian girl after she was liberated from the Dachau Concentration Camp in April 1945.
16. “A Yank in Versailles” Pvt. Gordon Conrey of Milford, N.H., one of the first Americans to visit Versailles after its liberation from the Germans in 1944, standing in the Hall of Mirrors.
17. Soldiers with the 2nd Armored Division sing “Go to Town” in Barento, France, 1944. Color by Jared Enos.
18. Two Sikhs man a Bren Gun in Italy, 1944.
19. Two U.S. soldiers of 3rd Infantry Division seek shelter behind a M-4 Sherman tank near Düren, Germany, December 1944. Color by Jared Enos.
20. Times Square on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Color by Jared Enos.
21. Members of the Tuskegee Airmen.
22. Stalin and Churchill in Livadia Palace during the Yalta Conference, February 1945. Color by Redditor zuzahin.
23. Russian women and children recently liberated from a German concentration camp lay flowers at the bodies of four dead American soldiers.
24. Nazi General Anton Dostler facing the Firing Squad in 1945 after being found guilty of war crimes. Color by Mads Madsen.
(If you colored any of the photos shown, please email me at email@example.com and I’ll add your credit.)