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A Lab and a Cab: 1937

A Lab and a Cab: 1937

Scanned from a print dated March 23, 1937. Colorized! View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Knickers in a Twist

I am surprised by the vehemence of the anti-colorists. I think it adds more than a little something. Like watching the Wizard of Oz. I think the other dog is either an English or Australian shepherd.

My Great-Aunt was a colorizer

Really enjoy the work of the colorizers on Shorpy. My great-aunt is 96. During her late teens, she worked as a colorizer in a local studio. She told me that so many customers wanted their portraits colorized, she was working overtime. She gave my mother two original portraits of my great-grandparents that she herself had done, they are really nice. Thanks for sharing the colorizing work on Shorpy. Life has always been in color, and to see our forefathers in color reminds us that they, too, were just real people like us.


Old Yeller appears to be a '36 Dodge . . .

I've been colorizing B&W photos digitally since 1993.

And I was doing it in Marshall's oils before that. Also with color dyes in an airbrush.

I once did an entire calender of stills from the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" about 15 years ago digitally. I know, I should be shot for such blasphemy, but the company I did the work for had acquired the rights to do so.

It was fun, and I tried to maintain a look of hand tinting as apposed to all out colorization.

Some tricks are trying to maintain a certain value of color across the entire image, as well as not allowing the shadows to obtain too much color saturation. The saturation is what gives most of the colorized images an off look. It's not all plug and play, and the use of curves and selective color is often needed to make a more natural color effect once a color has been layed in.

Just what we need: another colorization opinion

I wonder why the various Farkizations don't inspire similarly vehement responses. As with the colorizations, I regard them as completely separate and distinct visual experiences vis-a-vis the originals. And though I rarely get an "it's real" feeling from colorizations, I must say that in the coulda-fooled-me department, The Summer of '41, 2.0 takes the cake.

What's old is new!

My great aunt made money during the Depression tinting photos by hand. We have a few of hers around, and they are very similar in appearance to these.

It was a point of pride with her to turn out the work that she did, and she was in great demand by the local drug stores until she got a job as a secretary during the war.

I think for some other body to spend all of the time it takes to tint these photos is a tremendous mark of respect for our past-doing so is NOT "easy" or fast.

Hair flip

"Outta Here" marks the first hair flip I've seen on Shorpy. I'm quite used to seeing them on sites like CafeMom and Babycenter -- where new-mommy hormones rage. Funny to see one in this setting, performed by a historian no less. You could almost hear the finger-snap.

You can also bet that, true to hair-flip form, "Outta Here" is most certainly NOT outta here. Instead they are lurking to see what kind of dust they kicked up and how/if anyone is begging them to come back.

I don't mind the color. I can respect the time, talent, and artistry it takes to do it, even if I prefer the black-and-white originals.

Color snobs

This debate reminds me that many art purists love classic Grecian architecture and sculpture. The simplicity of form and aspect, etc. Well, the Greeks painted and gilded their temples to make them more lifelike and eye-catching.

Imagine the Parthenon's friezes colorized with the subtlety of a Sunday-funnies comic strip.

The original art, if that is what it is, is untouched by the work of those who wish to enjoy it in any way they feel led to.

Perhaps some of you wish to take paint and brush to "fix" a Greek temple? You know, to take it back to the artist's "true concept"?

Aesthetically speaking

I must respectfully disagree with Mr. Breza here. I think colorizing embalms the photos. Even the most sensitive application of color muddies the tones and the highlights. The original black-and-white images have so much more immediacy, texture and vitality.

Color me Neutral

Personally I don't care either way concerning color vs. black and white but I think I can see the point the anti-colorization mob is trying to make. Most of the photos I have seen colorized no longer look like "real" photos. The colors, from the skin tones on the people to the brickwork on buildings, are unnatural and generally off. From reading all of the posts concerning this I understand how difficult the process apparently is so I am not trying to knock anyone's work. It just takes a picture that looks real and transforms it into a cartoon in most cases. Some people, it would seem, don't appreciate that.

To heck with the haters

I too am one that enjoys colorizing old black and white photos. I have done mostly old family ones and a bunch of old sports ones. The funny thing about the haters is this. The world is a world of color. The only reason old pictures are in black and white is because there was no color film. When any of the haters take family pictures now or pictures of vacations or whatever how many use black and white film or in digital?

I see some very talented people on here with the colorizing. For some of you to do all the little details is fantastic.

I love Shorpy and try to check it every day. The quality of the pictures makes them great to be colorized if one can do so. The anger by many about this puzzles me.

Retro Color

The colorized pictures presented here had a vaguely familiar feel to me. Then this afternoon, whem I was moving boxes of old National Geographics around in the attic, it dawned on me. Most of them look almost identical to old color magazine prints. So what you have here is a digital recreation of an old process.

Colorization as art

For centuries, artists have taken previous artists' works as inspiration to be quoted and reworked in new ways. Manet quotes Titian, Bacon quotes Velasquez, etc. If the colorization is well done and helps you see the original in new and interesting ways, then it succeeds as art too. Done respectfully, it's a form of homage to the original.


I support the colorization. In response to those who feel otherwise, I would like to point out the black and white negatives safely remain. I spent a long career as a professional editor and reporter/photographer, as well as amateur historian, and I see nothing wrong with these colorized photos.

Variety is the Spice of Life

THANK YOU, DAVE, for offering a venue where photos can be displayed in original form, as well as colorized. How can it be that some moral corruption is committed by adding a little color? If you don't like it, don't look at it. Use the power of your mouse and click elsewhere.

And as to the photographers using color if they had been able to, I would be willing to wager that any one of these photogs would have GLADLY switched to color had it been available. It is we on the romantic side of looking back that insist on purist displays. Otherwise, why would they have gone to the trouble to hand color with paints and the like before color was available.

Again, no one is twisting anyone's arm to look at any of this stuff. If you don't like it, scroll on!

Colorized just like Grandpa used to

These colorized photos look much like colorized photos that could be found in magazine advertisements and on postcards in the years before color film was widely available.

Hue and Cry

If you don't like colorized images, feel free to avoid them. I think they're 100% fine for Dave to put on his site as long as he notes that they have been colorized recently, which he does with the colorized tag.

The photographs on Shorpy were made for many different reasons, and it's not our place to dictate the artistic intentions of the photographers. I think it's great that we have the option of seeing a modern artist's conception of what the original photog saw.

For example, I don't think colorizing would improve "Lady in the Water" but I think it would be interesting for "The Jerk" and many other images.

I believe that most pictures would have probably been taken in color in the first place if it had been as cheap, easy to access, and durable as it is today.

Not a fan of this colorization

I'm ok with colorization if it adds to the image. The key is to add the color with a subtle, light touch and to understand that, say, the yellow on a taxi is actually comprised of several subtly different yellows.

In this case, however, the color does not add but, in my humble opinion, takes away from the image. The colors are so heavy that the area of the collie's face and man's chest has lost its detail. The colors on the dog's coat and the woman's hair were especially applied with a rather heavy, clunky fashion.

Call me Phil

Being one who enjoys the colorized pics -- and therefore a Philistine -- I have to say I'm not seeing the point of what appears to be ranting for ranting's sake.

Surely the point of all this outrage can't be to persuade, since hardly anybody is persuaded by being called names, or having their positions caricatured, or being accused of the worst imaginable motives.

But if I were a wise and sensitive respecter of art and history, perhaps I would understand. Of course, in that case, I might be over at the Library of Congress site, where, as far as I am aware, nobody ever colorizes anything at all.

Brady beat us to it

So much for the supposed sanctity of black and white Civil War photos. A quick Google search yielded the image below, a very large original salt print portrait of General Joseph Hooker, ca. 1863, 17 1/2 inches by 15 inches, taken, printed and hand-colored in the Mathew Brady studio. Brady was a businessman and a showman, not an "artist," who counted Horace Greeley and P.T. Barnum among his personal friends. And he found that colored images sold well then for the same reasons that they captivate us now.

Who Owns the Past?

As an art and design historian I'm happy to say "Good night and good luck" to Outta Here and the other Kultur Kops who refuse to accept any difference between casual artistic appropriations of historical images and "professional" presentations of those images. What "standard" do these clowns think they're protecting? Is Shorpy the National Archives? Here we have people happily engaging with history in creative and thoughtful ways, and they can't stand it. No wonder so many historical societies are closing their doors for lack of support. And to the digital artists on this site who've provided these images, please, send us a colorized Mathew Brady. Soon. If it weeds out a few more sandbox bullies who think they own history, hurrah! If I had a little more time for my own Photoshop efforts, by now I would have done so myself.

Whoa Nellie!

Let’s all take a deep breath and relax. I'm the guy who colorized this "travesty." As a collector of antique negatives and prints I too am a bit of a purist when it comes to black and white photography as can be seen if you click on the "track" tab of my user profile. However, I see nothing wrong with putting color to an old image for recreational purposes. I shouldn’t have to remind the noted "historians" who were kind enough to submit their thoughtful comments that tinting photos goes back to the days of Daguerreotypes, so the process is hardly anything new.

As for being done by "technicians" rather than artists I’d like to point out that I've been employed as a graphic artist for over twenty years. I also oil paint, work with charcoals and particularly enjoy pen and ink and can assure you that colorizing these digitally is an art since it takes the same ability to mix colors, recognize good contrasts etc. Anybody who disputes that isn't familiar with the process involved. Not to mention the eye it takes to restore the original photos even before adding color. I for one am glad Dave and the Shorpy gang are posting these. It's interesting to see other people's interpretations of how history might have looked had we been there. One of the most entertaining things about the arts is the critics.

Go to your corners!

I don't like colorization, but can't really get hysterical about it. In this photo, the "yellow" cab is a color of yellow that no one has ever seen on a real cab, and if the lovely lady is still alive, she might take offense at being made to look like she dyed her hair. Still, this kind of anonymous snap is the best choice for colorization, rather than the work of photographers who took great care with their tones and shadings.

I remember in my childhood, people could buy "tinting" kits to colorize their own b&w photos, and my mother used her kit to create some ghastly images of my childhood. Ironically, however, the tinting has proved more stable than 1950s color prints, which have faded and now look even older and weirder than they, and I, are.

The Best Medicine

I'm not sure he'd ever admit to it, but I suspect the real reason Dave gives space to the colorized pictures is entertainment value. Not of the photos themselves, which are OK, but the opportunity they afford otherwise rational people make complete asses of themselves with their ridiculous, unintentionally hilarious "comments."

[Of course you're right -- he would never admit to such a thing. - Dave]

History coming to life

This image really conveys vitality better than B&W, although I still like those images too. The dogs really come to life. Well done.

It seems like there have been more colorized images recently. Any particular reason?


I've held my tongue long enough. I find colorization to be a travesty and a deliberate show of disrespect to both the filmmaker and the photographer. If the photographer had wanted to use color film in depicting these images, he certainly could have. He chose not to. It is my opinion that succeeding generations should respect his judgement and refrain from altering the photographers reality. Simply using a technology because it new or somehow "neat" is a poor reason to use the technology. Further, I believe colorization used in this manner is simply a tool wielded by technicians, not artists, who have no creative ability of their own and so seek to vandalize art created by others. I despised colorization when Ted Turner first sought to employ it and I deplore it today.

["Travesty"? "Disrespect"? "Despise"? "Deplore"? "Vandalism"? Goodness. As for "art created by others," they're casual snapshots salvaged from old shoeboxes, family photo albums, thrift stores, etc. (And shooting on color film was not really a choice for the average amateur photographer in 1937, a year after the first color print films became commercially available.) For more colorization hilarity, see the comment below. Note how this "historian" went to the trouble of adding italics. - Dave]

No Lab

That sure is a cab but that isn't a Lab.

[Perhaps you're looking at the wrong dog. - Dave]

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