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EXPRESS Book Review: The Colour of Time


     NEIL NORMAN
| UPDATED: 08:16, Fri, Sep 7, 2018 • 
4/5 stars

    The Colour of Time by Dan Jones and Marina Amaral

         

This book, a collaboration between historian Dan Jones and Brazilian artist

Marina Amaral, takes 200 photographs from the century between 1850

and 1960 and renders them into colour with the aim of giving them greater

immediacy. It is a century of empires and revolutions, cataclysmic social

change and great technological progress.

Images from Russia before and after the revolution share pages with figures

before and after the American Civil War. Politicians and royalty alternate

with soldiers and peasants, labourers and assassins, the living and the dead.

The accompanying text is a marvel of compression.

Jones sketches with wry economy not only the historical context but the

purpose of the photograph, from documented reality to shameless

propaganda, from official portrait to candid snap.

Queen Victoria and Otto von Bismarck appear intractable, almost ruthless;

Abraham Lincolnʼs portrait is remarkable, the blue of his tie hinting at the

blue in his eyes.

In spite of the adage, the camera lies all the time.

The cannonballs on the site of the Battle of Balaclava are thought to have

been placed there by the photographer Roger Fenton to romanticise the

Charge of the Light Brigade.

The portrait by Alexander Gardner of would-be assassin Lewis Powell, who

stabbed US secretary of state William H Seward, depicts a confused, suicidal

young man as an insouciant rebel. Taken in 1865, it could be mistaken for

a portrait of River Phoenix.

Blues and reds dominate the pictures. Military uniforms and medals leap

from the pages. Images take on a new dimension in colour, carefully

balanced by Amaral to enhance skin tone, as in the photo of Amelia Earhart,

or add contextual weight as in the VJ Day photo of a sailor kissing a girl in

Manhattan.

There is much to enjoy here.


As a history book, it acts as a fleeting guide to a tumultuous century.

BUT as an aesthetic experiment it is remarkably successful.

.

Views: 22

Comment by Michael Grove on October 4, 2018 at 17:44

 I had forgotten altogether about this BOOK REVIEW • which I posted

 to myself as a [RE]minder of the need to investigate the possibility

 of obtaining one • until there Linnie and I were with Pauline and

 Richard, taking a walk over the 53rd Ploughing Match weekend,

 through Battle to see the FESTIVAL celebrations, when shock horror

 there was this copy of same in one of the shop windows.

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