Bleak and White

by Joe Coluccio, Parsec President
Einstein_tongue For what it’s worth. Somethin’s happenin’ here. I’ve come across it too many times. Whisking through a series of internet sites, on the prowl for an interesting bit of information. My eyes drawn to an image from the turn of the Nineteenth Century, or in the second or third decade of the Twentieth. It’s subtle enough. A dab of dull red, washed out green, faded orange. The likeness of a newsstand in the center of a busy street filled with garish three colored pulp magazines, or Mark Twain with pink cheeks, or Bonnie, in a chartreuse dress and Clyde in gray spats over black shoes on the running board of a red tinted automobile, grinning out from behind a brace of guns. All, I am told, to give me an “actual” view of history. To re-envision the past.

At first, as I gaze in shock, my mind stupidly registers. ‘Oh, look, someone has discovered a cache of color photos that Matthew Brady snapped during the battle of First Manasses.’ Recently I went through a whole series of twenty or so striking images of history in full color which someone had kindly provided. The end of the many click path revealed that through the wonder of technology, (Not sure how advanced coloring an object is. After all we’ve had the coloring book for a time, and Edison’s “Great Train Robbery” had hand painted tinted frames) I could now rest assured I witnessed the drama of history, rendered out of black and white, in the new light of the wonderful world of color.

I can only say as I did when I woke up one evening, out of a dream, on the living room couch, to the vision of Laurel and Hardy throwing an apocalypse of pies over the whole city block in the unimaginative color palette of Ted Turner’s film colorization, “Stop!”

Should someone take the notebooks of DaVinci and redo the sketches, grocery lists and bawdy jokes with a technicolor airbrush? The photos of Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, and Margaret Bourke-White and improve them with a spray of pastel? I give this effort to revivify five full stuck-out tongues.

The past, if it exists at all, cannot be lived again. It is a sad temporal fact. Viewing an artifact, or the image of an artifact, or the scan of an image of an artifact is a miracle of modern technology. Access to those precious images is itself precious. The reality portrayed only comes after thoughtful viewing. An imposed cloud of posited color disrupts contemplation. The choice of subject, the staged or accidental composition of the image, the illuminations over shadow and light, the interaction with memory, are the portal to a new universe. No dream of the holodeck is required.

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