Meet the man colouring history – his subjects include Immigrants arriving on Ellis Island, the golden years of NASA and the world’s first supermodel.
How would you describe My Colourful Past?
My Colourful Past is a bridge between history and art, made possible through technology that serves to make observers look twice and think further.
This is certainly not the typical artistic pathway – what inspired you to take up this form of expression?
Always I have wondered about the past and the romance of living some time ago. Perhaps in late 2013, I took to reimagining some family photographs using software.
Have you always been an admirer of the early years of photography?
Early portraiture was every bit a finite art as it is today; only the photographers of old were somewhat pioneering the technology. I’ve seen countless glass negatives and have been lucky enough to hold them in hand; they are simply stunning to look over. Stoic faces, evidence of attitudes and trends of an era, they make for storyful imagery.
What are your biggest influences?
I spend a lot of time, outside of art, looking at how the world works or at least trying my best to fathom the social construct. I see trends and attitudes that are, on occasion, the polar opposite to those of old and it makes me question how far we’ve come in a sense of society. These instances train my thoughts back in time and that’s where the colorization lives.
You recently worked on a project on the golden years of NASA that became part of the visual documentary ASTRO narrated by Micah Cottingham - How did that come about?
Like millions and millions of other people, I too hold fascination with the space race era.
In the last few years, the NASA Media Library released a trove of high-resolution imagery, focusing on projects Gemini, Mercury, Apollo and STS. I told myself that I would study them at length, research and colorize a dozen. It was an enormous undertaking and the final imagery warranted something extra. After some consideration it seemed that producing a short, narrated documentary, focusing on these dozen colorized photographs was the way to go. I wrote a script over the course of a month and made contact with voice artist Micah Cottingham who brought her own magic to the project. After a further month and a half of editing, ‘Astro’ was born.
What is the reaction of people that see your work for the first time?
Upon first sight, people are stuck for words but they continue to look. Soon they begin to
understand what they are seeing. I find that particular subjects invoke particular responses and that too is a facet of My Colorful Past that I am continually exploring. The work can fuel a range of emotional responses, from anger to joy. There is essentially no moral compass to the path the project takes, that’s why it has looked into conflict and poverty as well as celebration and peace. What does take center stage is the ethos of the project, which is to reimagine for the benefit of education, in that people look a little longer and ask questions about times gone. People realize fast that their perception of time is magnified when they see familiarity in another era. It’s almost self-reflective.
How can our readers purchase your work – are there exclusive pieces?
These are exclusive pieces and are printed to order in large format only. I encourage any interested party to get in touch where all activity takes place on Instagram, where you can reach me very easily by email or telephone. I enjoy talking to people about what they are seeing, about the overall process and above all making new contacts. It really is incredible who gets in touch from week to week, quite often it’s a relative of a subject I have colorized and we strike up a friendship of sorts. Most recently a relative of William Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill and the grandson of actress Mary Anderson. They were humbled to see their family in color and reached out. It completes a circle of sorts and that’s a very satisfying part of the project.
Do you do bespoke projects – how large is the biggest piece you can deliver?
Bespoke projects surface from time to time and are welcome. Finished pieces are made available in large format up to sizes of 90” mounted and framed.
Is this a novelty with a product lifetime – do you believe that long-term interest and growth is sustainable?
Colorization at this level is by no means a novelty, ordinarily a person might offer opinion on preference, for example, a portrait in monochrome but colorized can entertain preference either way, however, when the process applied is 90% accurate we are moving into a new territory, one that borders education. This is why growth is sustainable and increasing.
You have had good coverage recently – especially about your project on the world’s first supermodel Evelyn Nesbitt. How will you maintain this momentum?
Working closely with a U.K based press agency is ensuring that this art meets a wider audience both at home and abroad. The key to enthusiastic response and workflow is originality and that is what interested persons can expect. In 2017 there are some very insightful pieces on the way that have untold stories behind them. One of these is ‘Escape’ and the story of Kenneth Widner - nephew of Clarence and John Anglin who famously escaped Alcatraz prison island. Kenneth and I have been working closely together for the last five months to tell a story untold, along with photographs unseen and colorized.
You’re based in Murrisk Westport in County Mayo of Ireland – what’s the art scene like in your part of the world?
Westport hosts an arts festival each year that attracts visitors the world over; we have poets, painters, traditional musicians, and songwriters. Westport is also home to Ireland’s photographer of the year, Michael McLaughlin. There’s absolutely a creative and accepting spirit in this region, together with the scenery and one of Europe’s most beautiful bays, it’s not difficult to find inspiration and mindfulness for any art form.
What are the 5 best things to do and see in County Mayo?
Credits – Matt Loughrey