28 Jul America in Color
America in Color
Today, the United States of America is one of the most powerful countries in the world. Not only do they possess the largest military force of any other country by orders of magnitude, but America also has the biggest economy on the planet. Socio-politically and especially culturally, America also leads the way. There is almost nothing that happens in America that doesn’t spill over to the rest of the world in a matter of time.
America’s shift from just another British colony to the superpower of the world was swift and decisive, the peak of which took place in the early parts of the 20th century. Luckily for future generations, the existence of the printing press, photography and moving films gives us a good idea of what it was like in those times.
Film changed history forever. For millennia the only source we had for historical context was physical archaeological evidence (which was hard to come by and damaged by the ages) and the written word (in which we had to accept the writer’s words as truth). With film, we can see with our own eyes what history was without blurry interpretation obscuring reality.
Due to the giant leaps of technology in the last few decades coloured film and photography has become the accepted norm. When an image or piece of footage is in black and white the youth of today have a hard time relating to it: it seems part of some distant past outside of the here and now. It’s one thing to see soldiers in World War 2 on their way to battle in black and white, but it’s far more impactful to see the same image in colour. Now, these soldiers aren’t just relics of dead generations but everyday people like you and me on the journey to their deaths.
When colourization started it had a lot of retractors who complained of the weak quality of the final product and the loss of the black-and-white charm of the films. Despite the public outcry at the time colourization technology has progressed steadily over the years. Some colourization has become so good that those viewing the final product would have no idea that it was originally shot in black and white.
In this series, we’ll be taking a look at the 50 years of impoverishment, war, disasters, wealth and triumphs that shaped America as she is today. It’s a fascinating look back on how things were back then so that we can more easily place ourselves in their shoes.
Tuesdays at 4:10 PM on Smithsonian Channel (ch 226) from 4th August