Sunday, March 15, 2009

Early Color Photographs, Time Travel, and World History

I just love early color photographs. I love old black and white photos too, since they can be even older, but there is a realness about color. You see what you would see if you were really standing there, in that far off time and place.

In that sense, they are the closest thing you can get to a real time machine. You can go back in time and see the world through the photographer's eyes, just a glimpse of it.

Color movies are even better, as you see the in true living, moving color. I've seen lots of BW WWII films, but it is the color WWII films that really stand out, like you are witnessing history.

If I could travel through time, I would. I'd visit all eras, in all parts of the world. I'd get lost in it. I might never come back except to do laundry on the way forward, to see what the future holds.

When I was a kid, I got several series of hardcover books from Time-Life books - the kind where a book comes each month. I really enjoyed those. It was fun to see what would come each week. I got a series on each nation of the world. I got a series on the supernatural - that was just fun reading. But my favorite was the one called "Time Frame" - it started with prehistoric times and then it had books going forward through history, with shorter and shorter timeframes as you got closer to the present (and had more records). It covered the entire world - not just the history of the west, but of many major cultures around the globe. I'm sure it could not possibly have covered everything, but it covered enough to really whet your appetite for world history. I must have read all the way through it at least two or three times. I think it ended with 1990, which was basically the present when the last book came out.

I was thinking about this book series today. I think when my daughter (and later son) gets older, I want to show it to her and then him, maybe read a bit of it to her. Share with her my love of history and of reading. I think that would be fun.

And in the meanwhile, I'll just take my short voyages back in time through color pictures - that will have to tide me over until the first real time machine is built.


Erin said...

You should check this out. I am starting a unit using the American Memory database tomorrow, and am so excited.

C Woods said...

Those books sound wonderful.

I've heard that some people dream in black and white. That absolutely astounds me. Nothing real is in black and white. That only started with photography and later film (unless you want to count ink drawings, wood cuts, intaglio prints, etc.) I can't imagine that anyone (unless they have a defect that allows them only to see light and shadow, but no color) would ever dream in anything but color. Yet, I admit there is a certain charm in black and white photos and film, a mood that could never be achieved with color.

DBB said...

Yeah, I can't imagine dreaming in black and white. What is that, like Wizard of Oz dreaming?

Though I suppose one can get some sense of what seeing in black and white is like by how things look in very low light, when you can barely see and when your dark-seeing takes over. It is really hard to tell colors. Maybe that is what it is like to dream in black and white.