Artist Breathes New Life Into Old Black and White Photos by Colorizing Them

Old Black and White Photos in Color

Photographs effortlessly capture a moment in time, distilling it into one static picture that we can appreciate again and again. And while the high-definition images of today are absolutely stunning to see in their sharp detail and vivid color, there is something so fascinating about looking at old black and white photos. It’s as if they offer an exclusive peek back in time, into moments in history that reveal what life was like in years long past. Black and white film takes everyday moments and cloaks them in foreign novelty, as if they occurred in some distant universe rather than our own not-too-distant past. But what would it be like to see those photos in color?

French artist Sébastien de Oliveira answers that curiosity by colorizing old black and white photos from before color film was even an option. Gathering his subjects from museum and internet archives—as well as the occasional old negative found at a friend’s place—his creative pastime combines his passion for painting, photography, and history. The resulting images seem to come to life, looking as if they could have been snapped just yesterday (aside from a few obvious visual cues). His colorful reproductions seem to offer a more intimate view of the past, removing the black and white veil of distant curiosity and revealing something more familiar.

“What inspires me the most is not only the search for a beautiful black and white image to colorize but the collection of color photos that become a reservoir of references for me,” de Oliveira tells My Modern Met. “Autochromes from the frères Lumière are the most beautiful thing, something in between painting and photography. The real colors of the past are the most touching for me, and it is what I try to reproduce in my colorizations.”

Scroll down to see some of de Oliveira’s stunningly colorized old photos. For more, follow the artist on Instagram.

Here are 30 colorized old photos by Sébastien de Oliveira!

 

Circus Girls in Sarasota, Florida, by Nina Leen in 1949

Old Black and White Photos in Color

 

Young Actresses Having a Sunbath During the Cannes Film Festival, 1955

Colorized Old Photos by Sébastien de Oliveira

 

Rita Hayworth, Eating on the Beach, 1947

Colorized Old Photos by Sébastien de Oliveira

 

Playing on the Beach, 1934

Old Black and White Photos in Color

 

Anonymous, France, 1967

Old Black and White Photos in Color

 

War Time Beach on an English Coast, 1941

Old Black and White Photos in Color

 

Clint Eastwood in 1956

Old Black and White Photos in Color

 

Diving From the Iena Bridge, Paris, by Robert Doisneau, 1945

Old Black and White Photos in Color

 

Cars and Girls, 1942

Colorized Old Photos by Sébastien de Oliveira

 

Marilyn Monroe Reading a Script in 1954

Colorized Old Photos by Sébastien de Oliveira

 

Washington D.C., 1942

Colorized Old Photos by Sébastien de Oliveira

 

On the Beach Near Casino, Asbury Park, July 11, 1911

Old Black and White Photos in Color

 

Spectators at a Race in Worthington, Maryland, by Marion Post Wolcott, 1941

Colorized Old Photos by Sébastien de Oliveira

 

New York, by Marjory Collins, September 1942

Old Black and White Photos in Color

 

Students of the Woodrow Wilson High School, Washington, D.C., by Esther Bubley, 1943

Colorized Old Photos by Sébastien de Oliveira

 

Parisian Girls Enjoying the Fun Fair, Paris, 1935

Colorized Old Photos by Sébastien de Oliveira

 

Bar at Central Park in New York, by Marjory Collins, 1942

Colorized Old Photos by Sébastien de Oliveira

 

Street Encounter on a Saturday Afternoon, Pittsboro, North Carolina, by Dorothea Lange, 1939

Old Black and White Photos in Color

 

New York in 1942, by Marjory Collins

Colorized Old Photos by Sébastien de Oliveira

 

Family of Cherry Pickers, by John Vachon, 1940

Old Black and White Photos in Color

 

Glen Echo Park, Montgomery County, Maryland, April 1943

Colorized Old Photos by Sébastien de Oliveira

 

American Soldier Returns Home After WWI, 1919

Old Black and White Photos in Color

 

O’Reilly Bar, New York, by Marjory Collins, 1942

Colorized Old Photos by Sébastien de Oliveira

 

Union Station, Chicago, by Jack Delano, 1943

Colorized Old Photos by Sébastien de Oliveira

 

Happy Anonymous Couple, 1948

Old Black and White Photos in Color

 

Althea Gibson, Winner of the Wimbledon Championship, With Her Compatriot Darlene Hard, 1957

Old Black and White Photos in Color

 

Marilyn Monroe Resting on the Set of The Misfits, by Eve Arnold, 1960

Old Black and White Photos in Color

 

Five ‘Midinettes' (Midday Girls) Enjoying a Break in the Sun, Paris, 1965

Colorized Old Photos by Sébastien de Oliveira

 

The Senise Family Going to the Movie, Blue Island, Illinois, by Jack Delano, Feb. 1943

Colorized Old Photos by Sébastien de Oliveira

 

Saturday Afternoon in Florence, Alabama, by Arthur Rothstein, June 1942

Colorized Old Photos by Sébastien de OliveiraSébastien de Oliveira: Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Sébastien de Oliveira.

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Arnesia Young

Arnesia Young is a contributing writer for My Modern Met and an aspiring art historian. She holds a BA in Art History and Curatorial Studies with a minor in Design from Brigham Young University. With a love and passion for the arts, culture, and all things creative, she finds herself intrigued by the creative process and is constantly seeking new ways to explore and understand it.
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