Does Adding Color Change the Emotional Impact of History? A Look at Sanna Dullaway’s Iconic Images

Swedish artist Sanna Dullaway is making a name for herself by colorizing famous photographs from our history. According to an article about her in Time Magazine, Dullawy digitally removes “spots, dust and scratches from archival…photographs, [then] digitally colorizes the files to produce realistic and modern versions of the portraits, which look like they could have been made today.” Her images have a powerful ability to help see the world from the perspective of those in the photo.

The photographs are stunning. They somehow have an amazing ability to recapture a moment decades ago and anachronistically place the setting in our day. But does the colorization of the photographs somehow also dull the emotional reaction created by the original black and white photos? Or, at least, does it refocus the emotion?

Psychologists for decades have researched how individual colors affect emotion—like how drunk tank pink makes people feel calmer—but I can’t help but wonder what the emotional effect is on viewers who are exposed to a colorized version of a black and white photo they have come to know well and admire.

As intriguing as Dullaway’s images are, some have suggested that the colorization takes away from the raw emotion of the moment. Some have even argued that colorizing iconic photos is almost blasphemy because it refocuses attention on almost sacred American imagery.

What do  they do for you?

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