Amazing 70-Year-Old Color Photos

Sometimes looking at old photographs makes me think of this exchange between comic-strip hero Calvin and his dad:

Calvin: Dad, how come old photographs are always black and white? Didn't they have color film back then?
Dad: Sure they did. In fact, those old photographs are in color. It's just the world was black and white then.
Calvin: Really?
Dad: Yep. The world didn't turn color until sometime in the 1930s, and it was pretty grainy color for a while, too.
Calvin: But then why are old PAINTINGS in color?! If the world was black and white, wouldn't artists have painted it that way?
Dad: Not necessarily. A lot of great artists were insane.

As absurd as it sounds, there is a kind of psychological truth to it -- having seen mostly black-and-white pictures of the world pre-1960 or so (I'm not counting Technicolor movies), I begin to imagine the past unfolding in monochrome. Every once in a while, though, a really old color photo made with some obscure, early color process will slip through and blow my mind.

But this really takes the cake: the Library of Congress has a Flickr page, on which they've posted thousands of color slides -- many of them hauntingly beautiful. The photographers worked for the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information, for whom many famous black-and-white pictures were taken around the same time (the iconic "Migrant Mother," for instance).

But rather than sending you off to pick through thousands of these photos on Flickr -- something of a laborious process -- we've compiled our favorites here. These are portraits almost as compelling as "Migrant Mother," but even more vivid -- almost hyper-real -- for their eye-popping color. (In fact, they hardly seem like historical photos at all.) 

As for the main image above: "This husky member of a construction crew building a new 33,000-volt electric power line into Fort Knox is performing an important war service, Ft. Knox, Ky. Thousands of soldiers are in training there, and the new line from a hydroelectric plant at Louisville is needed to supplement the existing power supply." 1940

boilermaker.jpg
A boilermaker at a Chicago train yard, 1942

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Boy near Cincinnati, Ohio, 1942

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"Woman aircraft worker, Vega Aircraft Corporation, Burbank, Calif. Shown checking electrical assemblies." 1942

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"Mrs. Irene Bracker, mother of two children, employed at the roundhouse as a wiper, Clinton, Iowa." 1943

rural-schoolkids.jpgRural school children, San Augustine County, Texas, 1943.

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Farm worker, Puerto Rico, 1941.

carpenter.jpg
"A carpenter at the TVA's new Douglas dam on the French Broad River, Tenn. This dam will be 161 feet high and 1,682 feet ong, with a 31,600-acre reservoir area extending 43 miles upstream. With a useful storage capacity of approximately 1,330,000 acre-feet, this reservoir will make possible the addition of nearly 100,000 kw. of continuous power to the TVA system in dry years and almost 170,000 kw. in the average year." 1942

harnesses.jpg
"Making harnesses, Mary Saverick stitching, Pioneer Parachute Company Mills, Manchester, Conn." 1942

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"Couples at square dance, McIntosh County, Oklahoma," 1939.

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"Tank driver, Ft. Knox, Ky." 1942?

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"Shepherd with his horse and dog on Gravelly Range, Madison County, Montana," August, 1942.

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Mechanic, 1943.

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"Worker at carbon black plant, Sunray, Texas," 1940.

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iStock
Photographer's Amazing Snap of an Osprey Is Holding Two Big Surprises
iStock
iStock

As a wildlife photographer, Doc Jon understands the importance of being in the right place at the right time. But it took getting home and really squinting at his own work to realize that he recently captured a “one-in-a-trillion shot” while taking a photo of an osprey in Madeira Beach, Florida. While demonstrating the power of his lens to a fellow beach-goer, Jon pointed his camera at an osprey flying about 400 feet above their heads, and snapped a quick photo.

“I started shooting and my settings were off,” Jon told Fstoppers. “I had no tripod. I was trying to hold it steady, but it was windy out," he said. "I could see the osprey had a fish, but it was far away. It wasn't until I got home, cropped in on it, lightened the shadows, and applied some sharpening that I suddenly saw. ‘Oh my god, that's a shark's tail.’ Then I saw the fish in its mouth and I knew it was going to go viral.”

Jon predicted correctly.

Photos courtesy of Doc Jon via Facebook

Jon’s photo, which has already been shared by thousands of people, features the osprey holding a shark, which is holding a fish—making it sort of like the photographic version of a turducken. News of Jon’s amazing photo spread after he posted it to his Facebook page and a local news station saw it. Since then, he told Fstoppers, he’s been receiving requests for interviews from as far away as Israel and India.

Of course, with all that exposure comes the inevitable question of authenticity. Fortunately, Jon is taking that part in stride.

"The fun part for me is some people are commenting that it's Photoshopped, and obviously, those people don't know the limitations of Photoshop," Jon told Fstoppers. "Then, other people are telling me I should have sold it instead of sharing it online. I'm laughing, because really, it's not a good photo. The photo itself kind of sucks. But it tells a great story and it's getting me a lot of recognition for my other work now."

[h/t: Fstoppers]

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Harry Trimble
Delightful Photo Series Celebrates Britain’s Municipal Trash Cans
Harry Trimble
Harry Trimble

Not all trash cans are alike. In the UK, few know this better than Harry Trimble, the brains behind #govbins, a photo project that aims to catalog all the trash can designs used by local governments across Britain.

Trimble, a 29-year-old designer based in South London, began the series in 2016, when he noticed the variation in trash can design across the cities he visited in the UK. While most bins are similar sizes and shapes, cities make trash cans their own with unique graphics and unusual colors. He started to photograph the cans he happened to see day-to-day, but the project soon morphed beyond that. Now, he tries to photograph at least one new bin a week.

A bright blue trash can reads ‘Knowsley Council: Recycle for Knowsley.’
Knowsley Village, England

“I got impatient,” Trimble says in an email to Mental Floss. “Now there’s increasingly more little detours and day trips” to track down new bin designs, he says, “which my friends, family and workmates patiently let me drag them on.” He has even pulled over on the road just to capture a new bin he spotted.

So far, he’s found cans that are blue, green, brown, black, gray, maroon, purple, and red. Some are only one color, while others feature lids of a different shade than the body of the can. Some look very modern, with minimalist logos and city website addresses, Trimble describes, “while others look all stately with coats of arms and crests of mythical creatures.”

A black trash can features an 'H' logo.
Hertsmere, England

A blue trash can reads ‘South Ribble Borough Council: Forward with South Ribble.’
South Ribble, England

A green trash can with a crest reads ‘Trafford Council: Food and Garden Waste Only.’
Trafford, Greater Manchester, England

Trimble began putting his images up online in 2017, and recently started an Instagram to show off his finds.

For now, he’s “more than managing” his one-can-a-week goal. See the whole series at govbins.uk.

All images by Harry Trimble

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