As a kid of the 80s, I count myself lucky to be part of the "collage" generation who stockpiled old magazines, encyclopedias, National Geographics from the '60s and earlier. I have always been fascinated by the colors of the images in these texts. I would clip the pages compulsively, slipping images in a large folder divided up into categories such as "animals, scuba divers, women, and war." The way the colors are muted yet vibrant, it makes sense that I am drawn to film for its qualities. I mourn the loss of color darkrooms. By the time I went to college, the University of Minnesota had ripped its art department apart and had already built a clean new facility with abbreviated darkroom facilities and extended computer labs with expensive printers and scanners. To do any sort of color photography from start to finish has always meant doing part, if not all of it, digitally. So you can imagine my delight upon finding a set of color oil paints for photos at a rummage sale last weekend. The price tag was only 3.50 so I decided to try it out.
The process is different than I imagined. Coloring photos by hand is more about subtraction in that you rub an area with the oil color and then use cotton or an eraser to remove hue from the areas you wish it to be lighter/obsolete. The kit also included colored oil pencils for detailing. I thought it looked tacky when I began, but as the photos began to fill out with color I was reminded of the technicolor images I used to collect.
My first effort was on a scrap portrait I had lying around. These next few months will find me coloring more modern subjects as well as landscapes.