As I work on my image assignment, I’m thinking a lot about how to most effectively use color. I’m working with images from World War II, and while the majority are in black and white, there are groups that are in color. I found one series in the collection “America from the Great Depression to World War II”** that focused on women factory workers during World War II. There are two photos in particular, one in color and one in black and white, from August 1942. The information available online is too vague to determine the order in which they were taken. I think the black and white one was taken first, for a variety of reasons, but their order is beside the point.
I considered colorizing this and showing the 1942 color image as a contrast, to show what I would have highlighted with selective color. But it occurred to me that the two photos are telling two different stories, and the color is secondary to the story. Here’s the color image:
The black and white image is more structured, more posed, and the expressions are more serious. The color photo is more relaxed, feels more natural, and their expressions make them seem more at ease. This color photo is more about their connection as women, and the black and white is more about their connection as workers. I think the color contributes to that impression, creating a feeling of intimacy.
So the question I must ask myself changes. It’s no longer “How do I enhance the story of this image?” but instead “What story do I want this image to tell?” Color, cropping, and vignetting* all have their roles to play in restoration. But the real issue is telling a different story. I’m working on a photo from the North Pacific Theater of World War II, from the Battle of Attu. I chose it because it’s one of my favorite photos, and it makes a very strong point about the realities of battle in the Aleutian Islands. But I have to also be mindful of how my work will adjust the photo’s story.
*Is that a real word? If it isn’t, it should be.
**Update: Found on the Library of Congress website.