The past did not happen in black and white. Photo enhancer and contributing editor of The Colors of Life, Stuart Humphryes, picks his five favorite early color photos from our latest book.
Stuart Humphryes has amassed a loyal following on social media over the years with his incredible enhancements of early color photography. He is the contributing editor of our latest book, The Colors of Life, a compilation showcasing over 200 of his enhanced early color photographs capturing people from various cultural backgrounds in their everyday lives, at leisure, and at work.
We asked Stuart to pick his five favorite images from The Colors of Life and write a few words to go alongside them.
Fayz Bey el Azm, a Syrian member of Prince Faisal’s entourage (1918)
This is the image which started it all. It attracted a lot of attention when I first shared the enhancement online in 2020, being liked and shared over 20,000 times. The reaction opened my eyes to the appetite that existed for enhanced autochrome photography and set me on my current course. The content of the book consequently owes a debt of thanks to Fayz By el Azym.
A Tunisian woman wearing an oriental dress (ca.1920)
This image captures the timelessness of the human condition. Her look of weary languor is instantly relatable today and connects the viewer emotionally with a subject from over a century ago. At the end of a long week, after partying hard, there is a timeless moment of fatigue that speaks to everyone. That is the beauty of enhancing early photography – it breaks down the barriers of what separates us and builds a bridge between those things which connect us to history.
Archdeacon Arthemios at the Hilandar monastery on Mount Athos, Greece (1918)
The fact that this striking gentleman physically resembles the movie actor Christian Bale has been a source of immense delight for many thousands of my followers online and has generated a lot of discussion and connection with an obscure holy man photographed over a century ago. It is a constant reminder that times may change but people do not, that we are are all captured by the moment in time we have lived, like insects caught in amber.
The first Paris Air Show, staged at the Grand Palais in Paris in September 1909
This stunning image became one of my most popular. The evocative jumble of early planes and balloons captured the imaginations of viewers who spoke of the spirit of Jules Verne, Willy Wonka, and The Wizard of Oz. It touched something magical and childlike in the minds of viewers which is a truly wonderful thing to achieve.
Sir Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated Trans-Antarctic ship Endurance shortly before she sank beneath the ice in 1915
My enhancement of this historically important paget plate has generated immense interest and featured in many articles about the famous trans-Antarctic expedition. Those who know Shackleton’s story are captivated by the clarity and the prescience of what lay in store a few months later, whilst those who do not know the expedition’s fate are captivated by the majesty of the image and the appearance that it sails across the clouds. It connects and invests us with history in a way few monochrome images of that journey can.
Discover more enhancements of early color photography by Stuart Humphreys in The Colors of Life. Pre-order The Colors of Life now.