Bringing Cornwall’s history back to life through colour

Local artist Joshua Barrett has re-imagined photographs from Cornwall’s history in glorious colour to bring them back to life and add a new dimension to images that had previously only been seen in black and white.

On Saturday 3 March Cornwall Council’s Archives and Cornish Studies Service launched their new exhibition ‘Cornwall in Colour’ at the Cornish Studies Library in Redruth.

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The exhibition, which is free to visit and runs until Saturday 14 April, includes six images that have been colourised and brought to life for the very first time by local colouriser Joshua Barrett.

“We have been blown away by the images that Joshua has colourised. These photographs are moments in time that connect to wider events, themes and issues and introducing colour back into these photographs really seems to breathe life back into them, and helps bridge the gap between the present and the past,” saidChloe Phillips, Learning Lead for the Archives and Cornish Studies Service.

The exhibition will also feature a range of postcards, books and images from the Service’s archives which is home to hundreds of thousands of images – many of them are original glass negatives – of Cornwall in the past.

The images which have been colourised were chosen both for their quality, and for the story they tell. Images include a 1940s RAF inspection, farming in Bodmin, a copper-clad early 20th century diver and this picture from May Day in Padstow in 1944 featuring American GIs greeting the ‘Oss.

Padstow’s May Day celebrations went on as usual in 1944, with the “hobby horse prancing through the streets of this old town to the sound of the … drum,” although the presence of American GI soldiers added some excitement. 

A month after these photos were taken this battalion of American troops,  who were based at nearby Prideaux Place in Padstow, became one of the first to arrive on Omaha Beach as part of the D-Day landings on 6 June. Many of the men pictured didn’t survive the invasion of Europe.  

Joshua Barrett, who colourised the images, said: “It has been a real pleasure working on this project and a real privilege to produce something which will enrich Cornwall's already fantastic cultural heritage. I hope the colourisation will help people view the past in a different light and help generations, both young and old, to engage with history in a far more emotional way.”

If you’re interested in finding out more about the fascinating process of colourising historic photographs then Joshua is giving a free talk at the Cornish Studies Library in Alma Place, Redruth at 2pm on Tuesday 20 March. Booking for the talk is highly recommended, call 01209 216760 to arrange.

For more information about the exhibition please contact the Cornish Studies Library on 01209 216760.

Story posted 06 March 2018