Rare Photos From the Past That Captured More Than Expected
History becomes an increasingly strange and fascinating place in the ever-changing, ever-evolving modern world. Photography can give us 200 years worth of human stories to look back upon. However, while viewing early photographs, we often date the people and places in old black-and-white photographs as characters from a definitive “past time.”
Without color, these figures become relics of a bygone era. Because of the gauze of black-and-white antiquity, it’s not always easy to imagine them as living, breathing people. But with the magic of colorization, a wealth of imagery comes to life. Here are 11 triumphant renditions of the past in full, glorious color.
A Meeting Of Genius Minds: Einstein And Chaplin
Comedy has sometimes been put on a different level than science when it comes to intellectual prowess. Still, history shows us that the two required equally extraordinary levels of intellect to pull off. Here’s the legendary Charlie Chaplin attending the premiere of City Lights with his good friend, Albert Einstein.
While Chaplin tended to put on merry, lighthearted shows, he always infused his performances with an element of humanity and earthly wisdom. Einstein, on the other hand, performed some of the most critical work in scientific history—but was, behind the scenes, a notorious joker.
The Iconic Bridget Bardot
Even in black and white, Bridget Bardot’s beauty shines—but now, in full color, her beauty becomes utterly radiant. She did not always enjoy her good looks. She felt crushed by the weight of attention she received after starring in the international box-office smasher, And God Created Woman in 1956.
She dropped out of the public sphere in 1973, when color photography took off, to redirect her passion into animal rights activism. What an incredible picture of the woman who, for a time, reluctantly had all the eyes of the world.
Orphans Of The Titanic
Other surviving children on the Titanic were rescued with their mothers when the lifeboats were lowered. However, these two brothers were orphaned after the Titanic hit the iceberg in 1912. Michel and Edmund were with their father when they boarded the ill-fated vessel.
After a messy separation from their mother, their father attempted to take them with him on a hasty emigration to the United States. Since men were not offered lifeboats, the brothers were separated from their father when the ship sank. Their mother, unaware that they had been taken to sea, only discovered their whereabouts after seeing their faces in the newspaper.
The Epitome Of Elegance: Sophia Loren
Sophia Loren is more than just a pretty face. She stepped under the spotlight and behind the movie camera at the young age of 16. She took the world by storm, becoming one of the most popular actresses in the world by the 1960s, and is still semi-active today.
Here she is, posing in casualwear on a hot afternoon in the prime of her youth. With the colorization, this looks like a photo that could have been taken yesterday. It’s no wonder the world fell in love with this elegant beauty.
No, there wasn’t any problem with the recolorization process in this picture. This image depicts a goalkeeper standing in a thick haze of fog. He stands heroically alone in the protection of his team’s net.
It’s often joked that older soccer balls were much harder than they are today, but it seems that soccer players of the 1950s were hardcore as well. Here’s Jack Kelsey, the Arsenal Football Club keeper searching thick fog for any sign of a soccer ball in flight.
Gone With The Wind’s Vivian Leigh
In Gone With The Wind, Vivian Leigh depicted Scarlet O’Hara, depicted here in a beautiful scarlet-adjacent red costume. Her character was a southern belle living through the reconstruction era in the south of the United States.
Leigh described her experience filming Gone With The Wind as an immensely special time. Of course, she would go on to have an extremely successful career in film, starring in other iconic films of her time, such as A Streetcar Named Desire.
A Portrait Of Oscar Wilde
Probably best known for authoring A Portrait Of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde was one of the most popular poets and playwrights in England. The Irish-born writer was known for his great interest in beauty, leisure, and championing hedonism as a virtue.
Wilde is an incredibly quotable figure, but in this colorized image, it’s clear that he must have left quite an impression by his looks alone—a sentiment he would have surely shot down with witty wordplay and panache.
The Exotic Mata Hari In Full Color
It would be impossible to condense the fascinating life of Mati Hari down to a paragraph or two, but this colorization depicts her as she was known in Europe—as an exotic dancer. Dutch by birth, she took a great deal of inspiration from Asian and Egyptian culture in her displays.
Her mysterious origins were a part of her act. Her life story and dazzling appearances inspired the femme-fatale archetype, which is widespread in stories and media today. She met a tragic end after being accused of being a spy by French authorities.
Paratroopers Taking It Easy At Hitler’s Former Residence
Here’s a shot of the “Eazy” Company, better known in pop culture for their depiction in Band of Brothers, relaxing in Adolf Hitler’s private residence in 1945—around the time of World War II’s end. The estate, known as the “Eagle’s Nest,” became a base for the Allies and remained a command post until 1960.
After it was captured, it was used to house Allied soldiers during the war. It must have been strange to sit in such a beautiful estate—in a home once owned by the architect of one of Europe’s most recent darkest hours.
The Meeting Of Extremes
Here’s a fascinating picture of extremes. It supposedly depicts the fattest man in Europe—his opposite, the shortest man in Europe, and on his right, the tallest man in Europe—all playing cards together.
It’s unclear who won the poker game in the end, but this image must have made a fascinating postcard or advertisement. Postcards were sent to friends or family from afar as a fun way to keep in touch. If this was a postcard, it would surely be a best-seller.