As much as I love an old movie poster, I’m usually a little suspicious of things Photoshopped to look similarly old. Not so much because I don’t have a capacity for nostalgia, but because I think it’s kind of cheap, no matter how lovely or well-executed. For instance: if someone you worked with complemented the way you dress, you’d probably be flattered. But, if the same person started spray painting their clothing to match you every day… you’d probably be a little nauseated. And now you have to agree with me: it’s okay to like something without trying to clone it.
The images above would be really hard to clone. For starters, they’re much older than Dolly, anywhere from 110-120 years. The character they have is a direct result of the technology gap that produced them: a process invented in the 1880’s by a Swiss Chemist named Hans Jakob Schmid. They aren’t color photographs, but rather are photochroms, which involve transferring glass negatives onto lithographic plates and then printing these with colored inks. Although color photography was around at the time, it was only around the labs of researchers; it wasn’t until 1907, almost 20 years after some of these photochroms were probably taken, that color photographic plates became commercially available. In the meantime, demand for approximations of color photographs was high.
Maybe that’s why the colors in these images are so stunning. I ran across them while perusing the Library of Congress’ flickr site. All three of the moody landscapes above are from around Scandinavia… although folks who have spent time there will wonder why it isn’t raining in any of them (hint: they photoshopped it out). Imagine the skill and concentration it took just to color these images… and then imagine Carol Channing clumsily tinkering with hue and saturation in Photoshop while belting songs from Hello, Dolly!
This is what happens when nostalgia gets the best of you.