compassion, collaboration & cooperation iN transistion
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
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.
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