A colorful past

People from all over the world are sending old black-and-white photographs to Marina Amaral in Brazil, where she gives the cherished old photos new life by adding color. 

“I always do a lot of research before each photo edit. I investigate all possible aspects of the image and try to obtain as much information as I can to help me determine the original colors. The location of the photograph, the historical background, the day it was taken, who the people are, what the colors of the day were, the season… they all influence the color palette. If I can’t find enough relevant information I just have to guess, but my guesses are never made randomly. The time I spend on one photograph varies quite a lot. Sometimes it can be done in one hour; other times it might take an entire month before I am satisfied.

I finish ten to fifteen photographs per week on average, always using Photoshop. For some pictures I can develop quite an obsession and then I simply can’t stop working on them. I almost go into a trance. Of course working at my computer can get boring, sometimes even become a physical torment because I work too long and sleep too little. More than once this has led to a terrible headache and burning eyes. But it’s worth it. It makes me happy to see how happy people are when they see their special keepsake photographs after they have been colored, and to see how I can bring history to life for them.”

  • You can read the article and see more examples of the pictures in issue 19.
  • You can see more of Marina Amaral’s work on her website.

Text Chris Muyres Photos Marina Amaral