Photography studio, gallery and training complex

Art? Or Old Art Re-touched?

Many thanks to my former student who brought this to my attention this week….

Mysterious Swedish artist Sanna Dullaway has recieved a fair amount of press attention this week for her digital colourizations of pre-existing, and sometimes iconic, photographic images. I think this work raises some important questions about authorship, meaning, and even the definition of art.

According to the Daily Mail online (, “it is thought she is hoping to sell her work on the internet – and there is sure to be some firm interest”. Really? If so, what exactly is that interest based on? The amusement of seeing a (possibly) familiar image in a way it has never been seen before? Or awe athe proficiency with which the colouring has been achieved?

And if she does indeed intend to sell her work online, where does this leave the original photographer? Would Dorothea Lange approve of the transformation of her original image from gritty, period-appropriate monochrome to colour?

Dorothea Lange's image as tweaked by Sanna Dullaway

I know nothing of the process used to achieve these amazing results – and amazing they certainly are – but one assumes that in the absence of any colour information in the original image, some sort of arbitrary decision was made (either artistically or mechanically) about the appropriate colours to use. How much might this have affected the original “meaning” of the image, if at all?

Better in colour?

Imagine you convert your colour image to black and white because it gives it more impact, or reduces colour distractions within the image – and then years later someone “appropriates” your image and colourizes it, either accurately or inaccurately. How would you feel?

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5 responses

  1. interesting one this… but what is more important the colour or the content and context that it was taken?

    January 25, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    • But is the original context being faithfully reproduced? or someone’s idea of it?

      January 25, 2012 at 3:09 pm

  2. I agree with you, the results are amazing — and intriguing how they were achieved. I think that an image in whatever color and or lack of it remains the property of the one who took the photograph regardless of what anybody else does with it later.

    Thanks for sharing this truly interesting information.

    January 25, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    • Thanks! I don’t know but I’m wondering if similar technology was used to that used to add colour to old Laurel and Hardy films or WWI footage, or if it was done more manually. Impressive nonetheless.

      January 25, 2012 at 3:42 pm

  3. As a technical exercise it is nothing short of remarkable the tones particularly in Dorothea Lange’s image are wonderful… As to whether it is art I guess it is a debate that could run forever, it is almost certainly a breach of copyright though 😉

    January 25, 2012 at 4:54 pm

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