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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 https://www.photomemorabilia.co.uk.

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