Here's a little "fun with technology." We saw this image 5 years ago as scanned from a monochrome print. An HHR fan told me about some cool software called "Deoldify" which colorizes images using an artificial intelligence engine. It's important to understand what this is and what it is not.
Deoldify uses "deep learning" to colorize still images and video. The way it works is the software studies millions of images to "learn" how to recognize objects and apply color to them. The software learns by taking color images, stripping the color from them, and then "guessing" how to color them. It scores each effort, and after millions of tries gets pretty good at guessing the colors. Now we can apply the model constructed from its study library and apply them to monochrome images such as those on this site, and it makes a pretty good guess at the colors.
It's important to remember doesn't "know" what the colors really were. The camera did not capture any color information, so no amount of analysis of the image file can recreate the original color. Those dresses and walls could be any color, but a mathematical model has decided these colors are more likely based on the coloration of the other images it has "seen". The Deoldify documentation includes an image of the Golden Gate Bridge which research verifies was not the correct color at that stage of construction. If you insert the colorized image into the historic record, you would be confusing documented facts with a computer model's guess. It would be very easy for the computer generated image to "win" that battle because it's much easier to believe an image than a textual record in some archive somewhere.
Still, a model like this is fun to play with. It can make an image easier to read at a glance, since our brains are used to seeing the world in color. It also helps us remember that despite the historic record being monochrome, these folks lived in a world every bit as real and as colorful as our own. I would never colorize our archives, because that would be adding information of unknown accuracy. But this site is one step away from our archives, so we can have some fun!
I'm interested in what you think about the colorized version of this image versus the original monochrome version. Is it easier to "read"? Does it help you immerse yourself in that world?
Category: [Downtown Hood River]
I like it. It may not be historically accurate, but I can immerse myself into the surroundings of this dark dingy store.
The woman on the right is "feeling" the fabric. The wood grain of the counters becomes beautiful and the piece of oak fire wood on the floor makes me think long, hot fire in that stove with a build up of ash.
The calendar was a non-entity in the original. In this one, I can envision Mr. Crowell turning to check it.
L.E. on 14th January 2020 @ 7:58am
This is really cool in most cases. At Deoldify (love the name!), all the example images are great except for Dorthea Lange's "Migrant Mother". For me, the B&W image is more immersive.
This is all assuming there was color before the 1930s as explained in the Calvin & Hobbes strip https://www.cse.iitk.ac.in/users/amit/books/img/ch930919_world-was-black-white.gif
Kevin on 14th January 2020 @ 8:28am
Definitely a chunk of oak firewood with the colorization. The spool of store twine has taken on a light blue hue, so I'm kinda thinking the back wall shelves, and likely a lot of the boxed goods on the right, are likely white, not light blue.
I find it interesting when watching "modern" westerns the colors of men's suits, yet here, and even the women's dresses, they're still rather drab charcoals.
starboard on 14th January 2020 @ 8:29am
Kevin, I'm happy you tracked down that Calvin and Hobbes. I was thinking about including it in the description of this image but didn't have time to look for it. Definitely one of my favorites.
ArthurB on 14th January 2020 @ 10:01am
I love it, for what it is.
Color is a decently large chunk of the information our brains use to interpret what we see, so having fairly accurate color (as opposed to none) in an image makes an immediate difference in what it conveys to us, and in how quickly we are able perceive that information.
It also makes me wonder how long it took them to feel comfortable releasing this software for general use, concerning the colorization of humans. The algorythms for trying to detect race, and then coloring for it appropriately, must've been a huge amount of work before anyone felt comfortable letting it go free into the world. Getting a dress the wrong color is nothing.
Kyle on 14th January 2020 @ 11:20am