merlin, making me feel all feeling-y inside with words and pictures. ‘Sakes:
Jack Delano - Chopping cotton on rented land near White Plains, Greene County, Ga. (Farm Security Administration, 1941)
A lot of the color photos I’ve seen from before the 1950s strike me as stiff, over-worked, or so experimental as to be a “Hello, World.” They’re cool from a technical standpoint, but they often don’t tell you any more about the subject than a well-produced monochrome image would.
Given the costliness of the film and the complexity of the process, it’s easy to understand why early color photographers had to be choosy about picking the subjects and conditions that their camera could capture well (rather than, as is ideally the case, working the other way around).
But, sometimes, an old color photo brings a distant image to life and produces something kind of special. The best ones make their subjects and their surroundings seem far more real and intimate.