Should We Colorize Holocaust Photos?

24 Apr 2019

Last year, a photo of Czesława Kwoka, a Polish teenager killed in Auschwitz, was shared online by the Auschwitz Museum. The photo, originally taken in black and white, went viral when it was published in color. The image was colorized by Brazilian artist Marina Amaral for the museum’s Faces of Auschwitz project.

The photo of Kwoka in its original black and white.
The photo of Kwoka in its original black and white.

The colorizing of photographs and films has long been a controversial subject. In 1988, Roger Ebert argued against colorizing the film Casablanca, writing that “‘Colorization’ does not produce color movies but only sad and sickening travesties of black and white movies, their lighting destroyed, their atmospheres polluted, their moods altered almost at random by the addition of an artificial layer of coloring that is little more than legalized vandalism.”

Larry Gross, an expert on photographic ethics, says it is impossible to put the Auschwitz photos in the same category since there was no “artistic intent” in the original black and white photos; if the Nazis had possessed the ability to photograph inmates in color, they would have done so.

Read more on The Forward