Early in the 16th century Leonardo da Vinci jotted in his notebook a few lines about perspective. As objects get further away, he wrote, three things seen to happen. They get smaller. They become less distinct. And they lose colour. Da Vinci was writing about painting, but his words can be applied literally no photography and metaphorically to History. We understand that the world has always been as vivid, immediate, colorful and real as it seems to us today.
Yet vivid and colorful is definitely not the way we see the past now. This book is an attempt to restore brilliance to a desaturated world. It is a history in colour. Among the pages are collected 200 photographs taken between 1850 and 1960. All were originally monochrome, but they have been digitally colourized with the effect – we hope – of making us look afresh at a dramatic and formative age in human history.
Here is a stage on which dance titans and tyrants, murderers and martyrs, genius, inventors and would-be destroyed worlds. The is the product of two years’ collaboration. In selecting photographs we have tried to spread out gaze across continents and cultures, and to commingle the famous with the forgotten. We have tried to honor the dead and do justice to their times. We looked at perhaps 10,000 photographs. We agonized, and changed our minds. We tried to pack in as much as we could, knowing all the while that out of the 10,000 possible options 9,800 were destined for the cutting-room floor. The ratio alone confirms that this is not a comprehensive history – how could it be? But it is, we hope, a new way of looking at the world during a time of monumental change.
It has been a privilege and a pleasure to create. We hope you enjoy reading it.
Marina Amaral & Dan Jones