Rosy Cheeks

Late 1930s, USA

Some hand coloured photographs are so finely and skillfully done, that even with them unframed and in your hands, you will need to catch the light in a very specific way to be able to tell it from a photo taken with colour film.

Not so here! This very amateurish and uneven job has left this poor woman looking like a cross between Raggedy Ann and a Flowerpot Man. Having said that, it is her woefully unflattering hairstyle as much as the colour used, that makes her coiffure reminiscent of Bill and Ben’s flowerpot hats. With her exaggerated rag-doll pink cheeks and parts of her teeth, as gaily coloured as her lips, one wonders why she, or a descendant, felt inclined to keep this photo long enough for it to find its way to an online auction site in the twenty-tens.

If you look carefully you can see a misdirected splodge of the same light blue ink used for her dress, on her right eye. Perhaps this lady had beautiful pale blue eyes? Perhaps she wore this pastel shade frequently in order to highlight their dainty colour?

She was not a lady without some money behind her. Her pendant is costume jewellery most certainly, but bold, stylish and fashionable for the time. The pin-tucked bodice of her dress shows complex workmanship, as do the top of the sleeves. She appears to be an, at least moderately, affluent woman who was conscious of style and presentation.

Therefore, one wonders why she decided to forego the services of a professional photo colourist? They would definitely have produced a more flattering finished product. Perhaps she was so enamoured with the idea of being a home artist, that she was eager to try out her skills regardless of the outcome? Perhaps she was thrilled with this wee artwork?

Online, there are frequently listed for sale some very amusing examples of the rogue amateurs’ practice. The worst and funniest examples go for high prices, as do those of an accidental, avant garde, artistic sensibility.

It was a popular hobby to colour ones own photographs when cameras and film became cheap enough to be within reach of anyone. There were many different methods used and a plethora of kits available, like the two examples below.

The two photos, above, were taken from

  1. Long-gone days… 🙂
    I have a couple of hand coloured photos of my grandfather I think. Early 20th century.
    Be good.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is interesting, seeing the coloring kits, I had no idea. You are right about her being a woman of style. Perhaps the coloring was done by one of her kids. Have you ever seen an intact 4 photo strip all colored in?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not sure about kids doing it, but possible, I guess. Glad I enlightened you on that morsel of vernacular photo history, Ted. 😊 I recall seeing an intact strip of four that had been completely coloured. I presume I bid on it but it isn’t mine, sadly. It could have had a mad starting price or it went for squillions. Very, very rare!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. For some reason she reminds me of a cross between the Queen mum (in the 1930s when she was actually the queen) and the Duchess of Windsor. A pair of women who, I’m sure, despised each other!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can see that! Yes, they despised each other, I’m sure. The D of W ruined the quiet pressure free life of the Queen mum. I would’ve hated her for that and the effect it had on her husband.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. roberta m said:

    Too bad about those teeth—she does have a nice smile!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. oglach said:

    I had the same thought as Ted. Maybe the colouring was done by a loved one. Or maybe it was done by her arch-enemy, who protected the photo for decades, thinking, “This is how future generations will remember her! Hahaha!” Something like that. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Oh this poor soul indeed, I think it rude when no one tells you you have lipstick on your teeth, goodness me!!! I trust her makeup artist was fired, I mean really…. who wears blue eyeshadow any more?! :-)) 2 other observations having nothing to do with the picture, lovely as it is…. Ted, I believe you have the proverbial bottomless cup of coffee. 🙂 K, you mentioned that a strip of photo’s may have sold for squillions – how much is only “one” squillion worth? Another great photo K, keep em coming! Seeing the new ones you post is like Christmas morning. Hugz

    Liked by 1 person

    • Arrrrgh! WordPress just ate my long and hilarious respond to your comment, Vin. I’m going off to sulk . . . 😡🤬🤯


  7. hehe, funny…. …better do not take that photo for a job application… except you try to apply for a circus job.. 😀 …but I remember that my granny had old b/w photos from her youth, that are painted by those color pencils. It looks funny because they used only three different kind of colors and obviously parts of the image remained uncolored.
    But I saw computer painted b/w’s from the late 19th century from Russia.. …wow, they were unbelievable good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, some of the computer colour photos are wonderful and can really change one’s perceptions of the TK es. Do you know the blog Retronaut? There are many fine, fine examples there.

      I do think this lady would’ve done well as a circus clown! 🤡 The limited range of colours seems to have been quite common in the amateur field. I wonder why, as sets came with a large array of options.


  8. John said:

    Hi Katherine, hope you are well. I snapped some photos with my Nikon yesterday of a Photo Booth inside the Luxor Hotel here in Las Vegas. I thought of you when I saw the booth right away. If you want to see them, let me know. I see no Contact form on your site. I thought you may want to have a look at it… John

    Liked by 1 person

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