In this project, I restore, enhance, and colorize images from the late 1840s-1860s, in an effort to make them look like they were taken yesterday.
My aim with this project is to evoke an increased measure of understanding, empathy, and human connection towards those who endured one of the bloodiest and most tumultuous eras in American history. Black and white photography often forces us to see these people as lifeless statues. I hope my additions can help you to understand and appreciate that these were real people who experienced the world in vivid color as we do.
Most photos come courtesy of the Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs housed in the Library of Congress.
The restorations on this page are all derived from several early photographic methods including Daguerreotypes, Ambrotypes., and Tintypes.
What are these types of images?
Daguerreotypes, introduced in 1839, have a distinctive appearance. Because they’re reflective, you have to tilt them at a 45-degree angle in order to view the image. Otherwise, the silver-coated copper plate is often so shiny you just see yourself in the plate.
Ambrotypes, patented in 1854, are on glass. Backed with a dark substance (such as varnish or paper) they look positive, but when the backing starts to deteriorate, you can often see through the glass. This gives the image a ghostly appearance.
Tintypes, patented in 1856, are actually on iron, not tin. Unlike a daguerreotype, tintypes are not reflective. While you can find them in cases (like the previous two image types), most tintypes found in collections aren’t in any type of protective sleeve or case.