Features

Colourful past

cuckHigh Street Wanstead, 1925

Local resident Roland Saunders discusses his interest in giving old photographs a new lease of life by recolouring them using artificial intelligence 

Recently, I’ve been looking at my digital collection of local photographs of Woodford and Wanstead. I have lived in South Woodford for most of my life, as did my parents and grandparents before me. During lockdown, I set up a Facebook group called Woodford, South Woodford and Wanstead Memories and Life. Some of the older photographs have been exciting to see, capturing times gone by. Using software to enhance photos brings a new level of realism.

In the digital age, our ability to interact with and enhance photographs using artificial intelligence (AI) has reached unprecedented levels. One fascinating technique that has gained popularity in recent years is palette recolouring – a process that breathes new life into old photos. By applying modern colour schemes to vintage images, we revive memories, making them more vibrant and relatable to contemporary audiences.

Palette recolouring involves selecting a new colour palette for an image while preserving its original structure and details. This technique is not about altering the content of a photo but rather reimagining it through a fresh set of colours. It can be applied to black-and-white photos, sepia-toned images or faded colour pictures, effectively transporting them to a different era or infusing them with a contemporary aesthetic.

One of the key challenges in palette recolouring is maintaining the authenticity and emotional resonance of the original photograph. Artists and enthusiasts must strike a delicate balance between introducing new colours and preserving the historical or sentimental value of the image. Careful consideration of the subject matter, historical context and cultural nuances is essential to ensure the recolouring enhances rather than detracts from the photo’s significance.

Palette recolouring offers a unique opportunity to bridge the gap between the past and present. By infusing old photos with contemporary colour schemes, we can relate to historical moments in a more personal and engaging way, such as seeing photos of Wanstead and Woodford from 100 years ago in colour.

Recolouring vintage images allows us to gain a renewed appreciation for the past, fostering a stronger connection between generations. It’s a means of ensuring the stories and memories encapsulated in old photographs continue to resonate with those who come after us.

We still have some way to go before, as in the film Blade Runner, we can actually go inside the photograph and explore, but I’m sure we will be heading that way. Using AI technology, currently, we can already build missing parts of the picture, upscale the resolution, and, of course, colour a black-and-white image. Software is improving all the time, and I’m sure in a few years, the images will be taken to new levels of realism.


To join the Woodford, South Woodford and Wanstead Memories and Life Facebook Group, visit wnstd.com/wml