Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Colouring the Past

During our recent holiday in New Zealand we visited Wellington. Wellington has got two exhibitions commemorating New Zealand's contribution to the Great War. Both were organised by Peter Jackson and the Weta Workshops (if you don't know the latter did the costumes, scenery, visual effects, prosthetics and weapons for the Lord of the Rings).

Due to a timing error, - we stayed in Martinborough the night before and the drive to Wellington was interminable* - we were only able to visit one of them, and I chose the one at the National War Memorial, not the one in the national museum "Te Papa" for reasons you will see in this blog and probably the next.

Peter Jackson is a genius. I thought his achievement with LOTR was impressive before we went to NZ. If you then see how he made the films, and then what he has done with the influence he has gained you have to be impressed. His attention to detail is overwhelming, and he has a clear vision and knows how to tell a story.

One of the controversial things he did for theis exhibition ("The Great War Exhibition") was to take photographs from the IWM collection and have them "colourized". This caused a degree of outrage at the time, with the usual "dumbing down" and "pandering to the masses" type comments. As we all know the First World War was fought entirely in black and white.

Except for in the paintings of the war artists.

And we also tend to forget that in the early days of cinema  Georges Méliès had his films hand coloured, so this isn't actually unusual at all.

Anyhow, I was able to get some decent photos of some of the colourised pictures, and I've posted them below. I was really impressed, and I wish I had taken the time to get good shots of more of them, but then I really wanted to see...but more of that next time.

What do people think?

*The road is very twisty and goes across a mountain range. Apparently Wellingtonians love to go out for a Sunday drive on it, and people with camper vans can only manage about 10mph. What looks like a 40 minute drive on the map is closer to two hours. And we had a nightmare getting out of Martinborough as all the roads were closed for a sponsored walk round the local vineyards.


  1. Trebian,

    I rather like the colourised images. They haven't been overdone, and look like the colourised photographs produced at the time.

    All the best,


    1. I agree. I've only just found this comment, BTW, as it went into my spam folder. What is it about you that is dodgy, Bob?

  2. Wonderful post.
    The coloured version of the photos look 'fabulous'. What a great way to make the history more 'real' and to show that it involved real people in truly horrible circumstances. I reckon that the B&W version can seem simply 'old stuff', especially to younger people who never saw B&W tele!

    1. Thanks. It is a shame it is such a long way to go to see them.

    2. Not too far for me (~7 hours), which makes a change--haha!! :)

    3. Where are you based then?

    4. Western Australia, so it's across the continent then across the 'ditch', or 'de-tch' as the Kiwis say. Actually, it's more like 9 hours. Quite a while since I have been to NZ (Christchurch/Canterbury in that case).

    5. Probably not worth the trip just for this. Wellington has a lot else to recommend it, especially if you are a LOTR fan.