Matt Loughrey's My Colorful Past project bridges "the gap between history and art", using digital techniques to add colour to monochrome images. This week he's applied his skills to this photograph of Peadar Clancy from the Kilmainham Gaol/OPW archive.
While this image dates from 1916, Clancy played an important role in the War of Independence just a few years later, and you can read more about him and his experiences during the conflict that claimed his life here in this week's extract from the Dictionary of Irish Biography.
How did Loughrey choose the colours for the photograph? "Peadar's image was reasonably straightforward in terms of colour discovery," says Loughrey. He was wearing an Irish Volunteers uniform and the details to note would be the shoulder lapels and button colours. Those are details that shouldn't ever be missed. Another detail to note is eye colour and is often overlooked. However, using the colour spotting method it was fast discovered that Peadar's eyes were blue."
Getting skin tone right was crucial. "The real work lives in the flesh and it is undertaken by hand," says Loughrey. 'The two factors to consider here are luminosity and where light 'falls' on the flesh itself. When the skin looks alive, the image is complete"
This is Loughrey's first contribution to the War of Independence in colour series, and here he explains how he approaches his work.
"Rather than focusing on subject matter, the workflow here at My Colorful Past is based upon a different set of criteria in order to colour an image. Painters paint light and that is where the subject is revealed, the same approach was adopted here in 2015 and has been explored ever since. A photograph has a handful of properties that must be taken into account before coloring begins:
Depth of field
Medium (ambrotype / tintype / glass negative /)
When these properties are determined mathematically in my workflow, then 'painting' can begin. Therein a sense of realism and relatability follows. Colour is 'spotted' using a technique which is tried and tested over decades.
Although this is a 'real world' analogue technique for determining colour from monochromatic shades, I've managed to build it into this digital workflow over five years. My immediate family are artists and engineers; there's a balance of logic and creativity that I'm fortunate to have adopted.
Depending on the extent of the data in the above properties (depth of field. contrast, focus etc), the workflow can too benefit from research and logic where the property data is limited due to image degradation...
I firmly believe that Ireland has become the new home of advanced colorization and, it is thanks to the hard work of John Breslin of Old Ireland in Colour that the focus has shifted. We have collaborated on many ideas and techniques that only serve to benefit this journey of realizing our visual past.
On a personal note, I might add that [Breslin] having passed the baton to me for this assignment, really is telling of his belief in the end goal, both morally and creatively."
Original image courtesy of Kilmainham Gaol Museum/OPW 17PO-1A22-20