I’ve always wondered and imagined what the sepia-toned photos of my ancestors would look like in color. I started with my grandparents a while back and picked the project back up recently. I’ve extended it to include my husband’s side of the family too. Disclaimer for any relatives, the colors are of my own invention and informed by a bit of historical research. They are in no way definitive. I am always open to suggestion! The quality of these portraits range from the perfectly preserved to the slightly damaged and from the detailed high-quality print to the softest of reprints. I tackled them all and had a great time doing it.
This one has to be one of my favorites because of the age and also the clothing. I was very challenged by the four sisters wearing the exact same style of dress and all of them dark. I imaging that they made these dresses at home with the same pattern/style. Surely they would have chosen their own individual colors, right? So, I chose the colors that coordinated with the obviously black blouses. some restoration was required but was mostly from dust and scratches since this was a quality print with lots of information.
This is from my husband’s side of the family. It required the most restoration. Unfortunately, the lower right side had to be left as is and I am thankful that no faces were ruined. I also removed my grandmother-in-law’s beautiful handwriting of her family members names. Overall the photo is dark and has lost much information. So I concentrated on illuminating the faces. It truly is a wonderful thing to see the people in these images come to life. It seems as though I get to know them a bit from this discovery.
Of all the family photos included here, this is the one that I’ve had the pleasure to know most of the people pictured. My grandmother’s side of the family still hosts yearly reunions although most of the siblings featured here have passed on. The reunion is hosted at my great-grandmother’s home place. So I feel a connection and I had a wonderful time imagining what colors my great aunts and uncles would choose for their photo session.
This photo of my paternal grandfather’s family presented a big challenge with the background elements. I struggled with the wallpaper for a while until a bit of research turned up a full color wallpaper sample from a similar time frame. So, I feel strongly that if this wasn’t the exact color palette, it was something very close to it.
I feel as though this family photo of my maternal grandmother’s family is the most successful effort in bringing the color back to reality. One of the reasons is the high quality print that I started with. All the information was there and I simply had to highlight it in color. I also had a wonderful time getting input on colors o the aunts dresses from my family members!
Unfortunately, this image of my mother-in-law’s family is from a low quality print. I did my best to make up for the softer edges with vibrant color and realistic skin tones. I couldn’t resist trying to reimagine this one since it is so adorable to start with. I hope I did it some justice.