Who Were They?

Lost and forgotten photos from the past

I have previously posted hand tinted photographs of an Asian family, possibly Japanese. The art of hand tinting was considered to be quite an art in Japan and was popular in the surrounding countries. Although the Sepia Saturday prompt was a photo of Korean girls playing a game of Go, I decided to feature the Asian photos rather than the game photos. Partly because I don’t have any game photos, but that’s beside the point now, isn’t it?

First up, two cute kids. At first blush you might think this is a color photo, but as you look closely, you will see that the skin tones are carefully mixed and applied, and while there is blue on the girl’s dress and a bit in the background, the majority of the image is black & white.

This is quite possibly the same pair of children and you can definitely tell this one is tinted. The consistency of color in the bow and dress our wee girl is wearing is just too close. The tinting does cause the children to “pop out” of the image while the rest fades away as an afterthought. It appears there are some kind of tools or hand equipment leaning against the wall in the background, making me think this is a backyard shot.

Maybe this is their parents? The photograph is meticulously tinted, again making it look like a color photo. The hint is in the color of the plants – they are all one color with no variation, but just look at the detail! The photo is about 2×4, so this took a lot of time and accuracy. And maybe a magnifying glass to hit all those flowers.

Could this be a group of friends caught in the middle of play?

This looks like a school photo or maybe a Sunday School photo. The children are all well dressed and posed in stair-steps. Again, the skin tones are carefully applied to their faces, giving them more depth than perhaps the standard black & white photo.

Here a group of children are sorting rice I think.  It is unfortunate that the little boys on the right moved their heads just at the moment the shutter clicked. From the palm trees in the background we can tell this is a tropical locale, so maybe Veitnam, the Phillipines?

The photos are all on the same flimsy paper and have no gloss or finish on them. I would liken their texture to standard letter paper that comes out of your local photocopier. This particular image shows the careful application of the skin tones to all the exposed skin of the children. Upon enlargement you can see that some got onto the little bracelet worn by the girl on the left. The artist even was careful to color their feet.

I hope you have enjoyed these images. They captivate me and cause me to wonder about the family, the location and the events surrounding the when and wheres. For more photos from around the world please click over to Sepia Saturday, where the theme this week is generally games.

Join in the fun!

13 thoughts on “Hand Tinted Photographs

  1. Wendy says:

    These are very interesting indeed. I don’t come across many examples of hand-tinting (because I’m not looking for it), so this all feels very new to me.


  2. Nancy says:

    These are such interesting photos. I especially like the one of the beautiful couple standing on the porch of that pretty house.


  3. Karen S. says:

    Oh all of these children are just adorable…..and the hand tinted photos are just priceless! A very nice collection you have!


  4. Bob Scotney says:

    You have a fine collection here. i don’t think I’ve ever seen a hand tinted photo.


  5. QMM says:

    I have seen tinted photos in my family’s albums but don’t have any of them. They were very old. I feel sure they were done by hand. In fact my own baby photo was tinted. That would make it 75 years old. I love the collection.


  6. Jo says:

    What wonderful and interesting photos – the children are adorable :-) Jo


  7. postcardy says:

    I like the tinted photos. I don’t think the children look Japanese. Maybe Filipino??


  8. Little Nell says:

    Lovely pictures – the tints bring another dimensions somehow.


  9. I love the tinted photos..I have a few from my Mothers family from the early 1940’s that are tinted. I find the idea very interesting…and would have liked to have seen the process:)


  10. tyrogers6200 says:

    I only have a couple of hand tinted photos in my collection so I find these particularly interesting. I like the way the took one or two items and made them “pop.”


  11. A beautiful collection of an unusual medium. Perhaps the skills developed in coloring prints and woodcut illustrations were easily transformed to photography. I like the way green plants feature in the background. Not so in western photos of the same period.


    1. Mrs Marvel says:

      I would imagine a person must have some talent with paints and color. My grandfather gave me a tinting set and it only included 4 crayons that you would shave a bit off and mix with water to create the paint. you could blend colors to make different ones etc. I was very bad at it – no talent there. :-)


  12. usermattw says:

    These are gorgeous. The photos themselves are interesting, and then the tinting really enhances them. I find it interesting to see what was tinted, how certain things were highlighted with color while others were allowed to recede. And you’re fortunate to have such ethnic diversity in your collection. That’s something I need to work on with mine.


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