Old iconic photos colorized and brought to life

A very cool Facebook page by Dana Keller who has colorized old iconic photos. What’s really interesting is how human, how real, how alive, how now these people (and events) look.

I think the reason the page works, the reason it’s so impressive, is that you know many of the photos, and you expect them in black and white. It’s almost as if we think of history in black and white.

colorize old photos

The same way I think of the 1960s as being that funny color that was in my dad’s photos and home movies. You just don’t really think of the Hindenburg, or Abraham Lincoln, in color.

The photos are for sale, as prints, on this Web site. Very very cool effort. And very well done. Do check it out.

(If you’re not seeing all the images via the mobile template, you can click the “post” link under each entry to see them.)

Abraham Lincoln:


Colorized by Dana Keller.

Mark Twain – I love this one. He looks like the Mark Twain characters you see on TV!:


Colorized by Dana Keller.

Waldwick Train Station, 1903 – I included this simply because of how real it looks:


Colorized by Dana Keller.

Frederick Fleet, 1912. Lookout on the Titanic who saw the iceberg. Again, I liked the way the color just brings life to the photo:


Colorized by Dana Keller.


Colorized by Dana Keller.

The Hindenburg Disaster, 1937 – another photo we just think of in black and white. Check out the detail of the people on the ground:


Colorized by Dana Keller.

H.G. Wells, 1930:


Colorized by Dana Keller.

And the original H.G. Wells in black and white.

Marie Curie, 1905:


Colorized by Dana Keller.

Nikola Tesla and Walt Whitman (who I don’t believe were a couple) – that Tesla photo is amazing:


Colorized by Dana Keller.

Audrey Hepburn:


Colorized by Dana Keller.

Lewis Powell, 1865: Lincoln Assassination co-conspirator. This one blows me away. 150 years ago. Look at that face:


Colorized by Dana Keller.

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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51 Responses to “Old iconic photos colorized and brought to life”

  1. PuffyTheMagicDragon says:

    Thanks, good idea. :)

  2. Whitewitch says:

    Totally the future!!

  3. FieryLocks says:

    Thanks! :)

  4. karmanot says:

    Yes, that is noticeable. Except that little girl on the left—now that is a face of the future….questioning, brave, unafraid, and certain in herself.

  5. LanceThruster says:

    More tesla love — http://theoatmeal.com/comics/tesla

  6. The_Fixer says:

    You know, what you said made me realize what was off about these pictures. Don’t get me wrong, I like them and find them fascinating. But you’re right, they all do have the same skin tone. I always thought of Lincoln, for example, as being a bit darker in complexion.

    Then it hit me: They all look like they are wearing TV makeup from the 1960s or 1970s. I watch some old TV shows on MeTV, and the effect is the same.

    Regardless, the colorization does make these people seem a bit more real. After all, we do see in color (or at least most of us).

  7. JLSR says:

    I think the picture of the Lincoln assassination conspirator looks like he could be someone from a rock group now!

  8. FieryLocks says:

    Thanks for that link. :)

  9. BeccaM says:

    I agree, something about the skin sheen is a little off, but it was her eyes that drew me in. No wax figure has that kind of depth and realism.

  10. ComradeRutherford says:

    I will begrudgingly admit that Lincoln, James Powell and Billy the Kid are well, done and to add to the original material…

  11. Monoceros Forth says:


    I’ve gathered from what little I know that Tesla was quite the charismatic showman in his day, dazzling audiences with his demonstrations of technological wizardry.

    It’s been credibly suggested that H. P. Lovecraft wrote his short story “Nyarlathotep” with Tesla’s public appearances in mind: Into the lands of civilisation came Nyarlathotep…always buying strange instruments of glass and metal and combining them into instruments yet stranger. He spoke much of the sciences of electricity and psychology and gave exhibitions of power which sent his spectators away speechless, yet which swelled his fame to exceeding magnitude.

  12. Oh I think I’d like David in color :)

  13. Only reason I didn’t post her is I didn’t like the weird waxiness they gave to her skin, looks like Madame Tussaud’s to me.

  14. Except I’m not looking at them as art. Especially for the historical figures, or historical events, they’re history to me – or at least that’s how I’m looking at them in this post. It would be the same thing as taking an old historical photo and touching it up, getting rid of the creases and lint, and then lightening it to reveal things we didn’t see before. That’s how I see the colorizing here. It’s providing a window into the soul of the photo. And it’s a window and soul we didn’t know existed.

  15. The prints are cheap as photos, only like 9 bucks, but she doesn’t include Marie Curie on her site – you should email and ask.

  16. Indigo says:

    Air-brushed, in other words.

  17. Indigo says:

    It tells us their story in our contemporary frame of reference and that’s fine, but I prefer the marble statues.

  18. Whitewitch says:

    Such haunted eyes in the parents – the children look a little less traumatized.

  19. Whitewitch says:

    Such a beautiful and striking woman…the black and white does not show her radiance.

  20. Whitewitch says:

    So much “texture” in these pictures versus the colorized films. very different indeed.

  21. Whitewitch says:

    The Lincoln picture is amazing…look how worn and tired he seems. You can totally see it in the detail. I like these very much…it some how brings out the humanity of each of the people.

  22. Whitewitch says:


  23. SkippyFlipjack says:

    Disagree. These aren’t art shots, they’re part of the historical record, and they’re not being replaced by the colorized versions they’re being augmented. I was skeptical at first but they’re really first-rate jobs — exactly what Ted Turner’s colorized movies wanted to be but weren’t, at all. It’s hard to really relate to people in black and white daguerreotypes because the people in the photos don’t seem like us at all. The artist who colorized these photos bridged that substantial gap fairly successfully. I like it.

  24. FieryLocks says:

    Nikola Tesla was gorgeous!

  25. BeccaM says:

    I’ve had a crush on the guy since the age of six.

  26. karmanot says:

    Tesla—so intense, brilliant and handsome.

  27. karmanot says:

    David…Ok so so doesn’t move me.

  28. keirmeister says:

    It’s always fun to see this sort of thing, but what bothers me about these colorized photos is the same thing that annoys me about colorized movies: Everyone has the same skin tone.

    Stand two or three caucasian people side-by-side and you’ll see that one may have pinker skin, while another’s skin has a tan hue. In these colorized photos, almost all of the subject’s skin tone are the same. Even the picture of the black family shows them with essentially the same skin tone.

    Although it’s fascinating seeing how the color brings out some of the detail (I particularly like the Lincoln shot), the similarity of skin tone is not natural outside of a Bel Ami porn shoot.

    Perhaps I’ve said too much….

  29. dave3137 says:

    would we like “David” if he had a “colorized” body?

  30. emjayay says:

    Original Technicolor was three-strip. Using color filters, three strips of B&W film were exposed and then used to make the final print. Super analog color. If Drew saw washed out colors, that is because of the deterioration of color film over the years or the limitations of color printing then. An original Technicolor shot film should be able to be reprinted or done digital without compromise, since B&W doesn’t deteriorate like a color print can.

  31. Anonymous says:

    While these colors are not exact, they add a “life” and humanity to the historical figures. It’s somehow easier for me to relate to them this way.

  32. BeccaM says:

    I know. Went right through my soul, they did.

  33. karmanot says:

    Interesting point. The Venus de Milo has become as kitsch an icon as the Mona Lisa. But, when I first saw her standing in the Louvre, I was absolutely stunned by her beauty and presence. Over the years I would return to Paris and check to see if that would still be the case. It was. That masterpiece of femininity is Olympian.

  34. karmanot says:

    Wow—those eyes.

  35. karmanot says:

    I agree. The old black and white cinema was highly advanced, even to the point that it had complex ‘color’ of it’s own through value, tone, and contrast. I feel differently however about portraiture. That image of Lincoln was deeply compelling—-an extraordinary face.

  36. BeccaM says:

    Well, I can’t speak to the 50s, but the 1960s and early 70s featured some of the most eye-popping colors in the palette, especially in fashion — but also in home decor.

    However, film and photos from back then — especially consumer-level stuff — struggled to reproduce those colors in reasonable fidelity. Seeing a movie in ‘Technicolor’ (remember that?) was a big deal.

  37. PuffyTheMagicDragon says:

    I want that one of Marie Curie. Her story was my childhood dream.

  38. Drew2u says:

    I always wondered if the 50s/60s (and some 70s) were as drab and washed-out in color tones as film portrays it as or if it’s simply just to give the decade an air of “old”.

  39. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Amen brother. I have made it a personal policy to not watch a colorized movie. As far as the stills go, I’ve seen some amazing black and white photographs that I would consider masterpieces.

  40. ComradeRutherford says:

    As a visual artist, I disagree with this entire concept, just as I disagreed with colorizing movies back in the 1990s. The original artwork is just fine and doesn’t need ‘updating’.

  41. GeorgeMokray says:

    Nikola Tesla had a hard time with people touching him. He had a phobia about germs. Women, historically, threw themselves at him and he fended them off. I suspect he fended off the men too.

    Now, Walt Whitman, that’s another story. Whether he and Tesla ever met I doubt. However, Tesla and Mark Twain were good friends.

  42. maria says:

    This even look better than the earliest colorized movies. Ted Turner blew a lot of money ruining classic black-and-white films years ago.

  43. Oh that could be cleaned up much better – Oh didn’t seen the cleaned up version!

  44. BeccaM says:

    I found the Amelia Earhart photo to be especially arresting:

  45. Hue-Man says:

    These look much more life-like than the colorized photographs we had from the 1930s and 1940s. The coloring of the cheeks was especially unrealistic.

    It also reminded me that marble statues from antiquity were painted, typically in what we would consider to be gaudy colors. I’m sure our cultural perception of “Venus de Milo” would be radically different if she and her clothing were brightly painted, rather than the chilly white stone we’ve grown used to.

  46. BeccaM says:

    What really makes this work, as opposed to other colorization efforts I’ve seen over the years, is Ms. Keller’s choice and use of color is extremely restrained. It looks to me like in many of the photos, she’s applied the color, and then desaturated it.

    That way, to the eye, we see the color, but we don’t (pardon the caps) SEE THE COLOR. It’s not at all distracting, and probably for many of us, unconsciously we still think, “Oh yes, that’s an old photo, so of course the color is a little faded.”

    Like with the Waldwick station picture up there. Where someone less skilled might be tempted to make the sky and that one girl’s dress really blue, instead, Keller’s hues are far more realistic. Or the station walls — sure they’re yellow, but they’re slightly browned and grimy yellow, just as it would actually look a year or so after having been painted.

    I personally love the Tesla photo. :-) But of course lots of folks already suspected that would be the case.

  47. cole3244 says:

    annie oakley looks amazing i would like to see a front view of her, thanks for the info.

  48. pappyvet says:

    Brilliant ! The first of this type that I saw was a reconstructed and enhanced copy of the Billy the Kid photograph. It was done by Alexandra Hamer of the only known photo of the Kid which is in pretty poor shape. Love the work.

  49. Cletus says:

    BTW, I tried to delete the above comment and add a picture, but it stuck around as “Guest”?

  50. Cletus says:

    It started here, John:


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