Austrian photographer and digital artist Mario Unger breathes new life into old, black and white photos with vibrant colors. From stars of the silver screen to 19th century street scenes, Unger has spent a staggering 3,000 hours carefully restoring and colorizing a vast collection of historical photos.
The photo retoucher began the project with the aim to narrow the visual gap between history and modern life. “The reason for doing all of this work was to reduce the felt distance in time a little bit,” Unger explains. “I love to transport feelings from the past into the present day and that only works with ‘real’ colors.” The artist’s colored versions of the past reveal a clearer depiction of what life might have really been like, and highlight details we might have otherwise missed.
From monochrome hues, Unger uses Photoshop to transform portraits of Hollywood movie stars and other famous faces, revealing their sparkling eyes, blushed cheeks, and the colorful fabrics of their clothing. In another work, a colored version of an image taken in 1905 of Maud Wagner—a circus performer and the first known female tattoo artist in the U.S.—reveals her incredible, colorful body art. Unger also transformed the famous black and white image of Picasso “drawing with light” taken by Gjon Mili in 1949. The colored rendition brings the energetic scene to life and reveals the vibrant colors of Picasso’s ceramics in his studio.