Digital Artist Colorizes Old Photos And Explains Their Backstories (20 Pics)

Published 3 years ago

Looking at black and white historical photos, one can’t help but imagine how their subjects might have actually looked liked in real life. That’s where Joel Bellviure of Cassowary Colorizations steps in. The man creates detailed colorizations of historical photos, and the results look like they’ve just been taken. And not only that – he takes it one step further by providing a backstory for each of the pictures he colorizes.

See some of Joel’s amazing colorizations of historical photos as well as read the captivating backstories in the gallery below!

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Image source: Cassowary Colorizations

Jacob C. Miller (August 4, 1840 – January 13, 1917) was a private in company K, 9th Indiana Infantry Regiment, and was wounded in the head near the Brock Field at the Battle of Chickamauga on the morning of September 19, 1863. The ball impacted in Miller’s head during the Civil War, but luckily the buck didn’t penetrate his skull. This extract is from a contemporary newspaper: «His name is Jacob Miller and since Sept. 19, 1863, he has lived with an open bullet wound in his forehead. For a number of years the bullet remained in his head but piece by piece it fell out till now. It is thought none of it remains in the wound. During the time it was in the head it at times would produce a stupor, which sometimes would last two weeks, it being usually when he caught cold and produced more of a pressure on the brain. At other times delirium would seize him and he would imagine himself again on picket duty and would tramp back and forth on his beat, a stick on his shoulder for a musket, a pitiful object of the sacrifice for freedom. As these pieces of lead gradually loosened and fell out he regained his usual health and is now at the age of 78 years, one of the most, if not the most, remarkable survivor of the Civil war.»


Image source: cassowarycolorizations

75 years of Casablanca. Today I woke up in a friend’s house, without having slept too much. Still with half-closed eyes, I opened my phone and the news popped up: today it marks the 75 anniversary of Casablanca. I don’t know what the other passengers might have thought of me, colorizing frenetically in the train back home, while, of course, trying to not fall dead due to lack of sleep. Here it is, my last homage to one of the best films ever made.


Image source: cassowarycolorizations

A few of the thousands of wedding rings the Nazis removed from their victims to salvage the gold. U.S. troops found rings, watches, precious stones, eyeglasses, and gold fillings, near the Buchenwald concentration camp, Germany, May 5, 1945. I’m preparing a series on the Holocaust, where I’ll try to represent not only the Jew extermination, but the repression to minorities and the work of the Einsatzgruppen as well.


Image source: cassowarycolorizations

German Mountain troop, awarded with the Infantry Assault Badge during a celebration, c. Summer 1943. Since it’s nearly impossible to make a serious post about this picture, I leave you with a joke my grandfather used to tell me.

The Führer was once being driven in his amazing Mercedes by the German countryside, to a small location in Prussia to give a war meeting. Halfway there, some stones from the road he was going through, which was in very bad condition, punctured a wheel and the Mercedes was stamped on a fence, killing a pig that was eating nearby. Angry and hysterical, the Führer shouted to his driver to go to the nearest farm to seek help. The driver, fearful, ran to the farm where he had run over the pig. Five hours later, he appeared in front of the Führer with a bottle in his hand. The dictator, extremely angry at the wait, and seeing that he did not come with help, asked him what he had been doing. “You will see my Führer,” said the driver clearly drunk, “I went to the farm and told the villagers that I was carrying Adolf Hitler in my car when, on the road, I ended up killing the pig. And then, they started to congratulate me, and offered me all the bottles of champagne they had. ”


Image source: cassowarycolorizations

A picture I did two years ago. Men (and a dog) of the Seaforth Highlanders rest in a trench, near La Gorgue, France, August 1915. Note how the bayonets are fixed, possibly pointing to the staging of the picture, as in 95% of the occasions. Swipe to see “8 Section panorama: Taken from: – La Gorgue. Direction: – Auber, Neuve Chapelle.”.


Image source: cassowarycolorizations

Wojtek the Bear with a fellow Polish soldier, Iran, 1942. Wojtek (1942-1963) was a brown bear purchase at a railroad station in by Polish II Corps soldiers who had been evacuated from the Soviet Union. He was eventually enlisted officially as a soldier with the rank of private, and was subsequently promoted to corporal, fighting in several battles in various fronts. After the war, mustered out of the Polish Army, he was billeted, and lived out the rest of his life, at the Edinburgh Zoo, where he died in 1963, aged 21.


Image source: Cassowary Colorizations

An Italian Alpino mountain specialist ziplines from one peak to another, c. 1917. Although ziplines might be seen as an indicative of amusement or military operations, they have been used as easy and cheap transportation method during centuries, specially on mountainous regions, such as China’s Yunnan, where even ziplines were used instead of bridges. In Australia, for instance, they were used for delivering food, cigarettes or tools without the need of crossing valleys and rivers, something adapted in war times.


Image source: cassowarycolorizations

Happy Australia Day! An soldier at an advanced Allied base, with his pet kangaroo, location unknown, most likely NQ. Pets were something relatively new in WWII, but amazingly common. Although since the beginning of war animals had been used for different proposes it wasn’t until modern times when animals where used as company and not as means of military ends. Several battalions, divisions or armies had their own pets; however, platoons used to find lost animals because of the war itself and took them around. That’s why most of the pets we can find in WWII photos are usually attached to an only individual. Frequently, soldiers came across with those animals, which could be dogs, cats, bears, kangaroos, and even cassowaries -check my very first post-, and trained them, which eventually led to the creation of capable animals that would help in combat, more than simply pets.

10/09/1942, John Earl McNeil


Image source: cassowarycolorizations

U.S. soldier wearing a Brewster Body Shield, 1917. The Brewster Body Shield, also and more accurately known as Brewster Body Armor, was the first American body armour to really be useful developed by and for the United States Army in World War I. Essentially, it consisted of a breastplate with an attached headpiece, both able to stop machine gun bullets at an average speed of 820 m/s. The main problems were its heaviness, which was nearly 28 kg. and its discomfort for soldiers. An adapted armour of 5 kg was later created, which fit close to the body, and was considered more comfortable.


Image source: cassowarycolorizations

US soldier from the 11th Airborne Division shares a bit of chocolate with a local girl, 1946, Japan. One of the main reasons for using chocolate in armies is the high energy content it has and how easy to carry it is. It has a light weight and long durability and was usually carried in simple pockets by any kind of soldiers. During World War Two, the best-known chocolate was the Scho-Ka-Kola, destined to German Luftwaffe pilots in order to obtain fast and to keep their minds active during the combat. On the other hand, the American Army started serving Hershey’s chocolate to their troops. The result was the so-called “Logan Bars”. This same company created in the 90s the “Desert Bar” designed for the operations in Middle East “Shield and Desert Storm”, although the soldiers’ opinion of the soldiers on its flavour did not contribute to its later commercialization. This time it was the last one that the American Army used chocolate as energetic food, since in our days it is being replaced by synthetic food which, although it will be of help, will surely not give so much happiness to the troops than a good ol’ piece of tasty chocolate.

By the way, you can still buy Scho-Ka-Kola and Hershey’s, which is great.

1946, John Florea


Image source: cassowarycolorizations

An Italian officer descending the Mombrone during his last exercise, 1906. The Italian Cavalry School, created in 1823, was responsible for the training of all armed forces cavalry staff. Every officer of the Cavalry School in Pinerolo (near the Alps) was required to go down “the descent of Mombrone” before they left the school. The 6 metres drop from the window of a ruined castle about three miles from Pinerolo was considered a test of nerve. Similar training exercises were taken at Fort Crook, Nebraska.


Image source: cassowarycolorizations

An original colour picture from World War II. While most pictures taken both by press and propaganda offices, and, of course, soldiers, were in black and white, several journalists or servants were giving new colour cameras. Innovations such as Kodachrome (1935) and Kodacolor (1942/1958) brought never-seen-before results to photography and nowadays are a faithful guide to colourisers.


Image source: cassowarycolorizations

Today marks the 75th Anniversary of the Bombing of Dresden. Here pictured is the destruction of the city as seen from the Rathaus, or town hall, months after the bombing. The bombing of Dresden took place between 13 and 15 February 1945, when 1249 British/American heavy bombers directly attacked the city of Dresden, the capital of the German state of Saxony, dropping more than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices on the own city, destroying 6.5 km² of the city’s cultural centre. Up to 25,000 people were killed, most of them civilians, and leaving hundreds without roof. The official version pointed out to a “strategic target” referring to 110 in the area. Half of the attacks occurred directly to the city centre, dropping a total tonnage of 2659.3, the biggest in the whole bombing, and without any rational explanation. Only one raid targeted industrial areas, and three a railroad. Moreover, a considerable part of the actual military and industrial terrain was never bombed, instead a great part of the Dresden cultural landmark with little or none strategic significance was transferred into ashes.


Image source: cassowarycolorizations

Two female Russian snipers shooting from a trench somewhere in the Eastern Front, 1943. Sniper’s baits were common in the Second World War, and were supposedly born during World War One, with even whole mannequins portraying infantry soldiers. Here depicted, a helmet bait, that would trigger the enemy soldier to shoot from the other trench and therefore to be within range of the allied sniper.


Image source: cassowarycolorizations

I’ve been waiting more than a week to make this public. A month ago, we published a monographic book about colorization on Germany and France in WWI. The books illustrate the war in the Western Front with detailed attention in the captions of more than 80 pictures in full color colorized by me. It is named ‘German & French Armies in the Great War’ and has been published by Soldiershop.


Image source: cassowarycolorizations

An Austrian lance corporal with a thousand-yard stare. I’ve talked with you before about the thousand-yard stares. Do you know where does the expression come from? The phrase was popularized after Life magazine published the painting “Marines Call It That 2,000 Yard Stare” by World War II artist and correspondent Tom Lea. The painting depicts a Marine during the Battle of Peleliu, from whom Lea said: “He left the States 31 months ago. He was wounded in his first campaign. He has had tropical diseases. He half-sleeps at night and gouges Japs out of holes all day. Two-thirds of his company has been killed or wounded. He will return to attack this morning. How much can a human being endure?” 1918


Image source: cassowarycolorizations

A sign erected by a man form Dog Company during the Korean War, 25th March 1952, Korea. Maybe taken after the Battle of Maehwa-San, or during the Fourth Battle of Seoul, this picture is just one of many similar that spread during WWI, WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. This is my fastest colorization, 12 minutes. It’s not a good colorization, but I wanted to test new techniques with this one, to make it look like an 80s photo.


Image source: cassowarycolorizations

Finnish artillery corporal Niman sculping a feminine figure in sand, during the Continuation War, Valkjärvi, c. 1943. If you want to know more about Finland in WWII, I prepared a long ago a series of three posts about the Winter War, the Continuation War, and the Lapland War. Now, let’s talk about unique things about Finland. The country was the only one that sided with Germany, but in which native Jews and almost all refugees were safe from persecution. It was the only co-belligerent of Nazi Germany which maintained democracy throughout the war. It was also the only belligerent in mainland Europe to do so.


Image source: cassowarycolorizations

My favourite colourisation I’ve ever done, and I must thank ww2_forgotten_history for sending it to me. It depicts a French Resistance member during the Liberation of Paris, 23th August 1944. We have been searching the actual location trough Facebook, through our beloved WW2 Colourised Photos page, where it was featured. Lots of people helped us to try to solve that mystery, but we still couldn’t find it.


Image source: cassowarycolorizations

Captain D. Michelson with Tim the tortoise, the pet of the Australian 2/2nd Battalion, 16th Brigade, 6th Division, Julis, Palestine, 28 March 1930. So I was curious about Captain Michelson, but couldn’t find anything about his service in WWII. The Australian War Memorial didn’t through any clues, until I searched just the surname and, hidden in a group picture, I found his complete name: David Enoch Michelson, SN – NX320, was born in Sydney (the 2/2nd recruitment area was NSW) on April 19, 1910. Enlisting in Denistone on December 27, 1939 was discharged six years later, on October 9, 1945. You can find several recordings and interviews of him in the Australian War Memorial website.

Aušrys Uptas

One day, this guy just kind of figured - "I spend most of my time on the internet anyway, why not turn it into a profession?" - and he did! Now he not only gets to browse the latest cat videos and fresh memes every day but also shares them with people all over the world, making sure they stay up to date with everything that's trending on the web. Some things that always pique his interest are old technologies, literature and all sorts of odd vintage goodness. So if you find something that's too bizarre not to share, make sure to hit him up!

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Cassowary Colorizations, colorized, colorized old photos, history, old photos
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