Photo Corners

A   S C R A P B O O K   O F   S O L U T I O N S   F O R   T H E   P H O T O G R A P H E R

Enhancing the enjoyment of taking pictures with news that matters, features that entertain and images that delight. Published frequently.

Matinee: Grace Rawson in 'The Colourist' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

13 August 2016

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 148th in our series of Saturday matinees today: Grace Rawson in The Colourist.

First let's explain the spelling. This is a Loading Docs production, which develops and promotes New Zealand filmmaking talent with a series of three-minute clips. And that's how they spell "colorist" there.

This particular three-minute clip features Grace Rawson, who was one of the original colorists for aerial photographer Leo White who began capturing images of Aukland from the air in 1921.

White, who was born in 1906, began taking photos with a Kodak Brownie as a boy, contributing images to New Zealand publications as a young man. During the second World War, he joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force as a photographer and documented the history of aviation pioneers in New Zealand.

'I thought this was an amazing opportunity for me as a young woman to do something creative, which is what I've wanted all my life.'

In 1945 he established Whites Aviation, which employed Rawson in the 1950s to hand tint White's black-and-white prints of New Zealand. White's seminal Whites Pictorial Reference of New Zealand was published in 1952. He passed away in 1967.

The video takes us into Rawson's home where we see her drawing table and paints. Color photography was in its infancy, she tells us, but White was hiring young women to hand color his prints under the direction of Clyde Stewart. She jumped at the chance to do something creative.

After her wedding in 1958, she camped at the very places where White shot his images, which allowed her to return there in her mind when coloring the prints, she tells us.

We actually see her, now aged 83, work on a print, preparing a cotton swab to brush on the paint and blot the excess water up with another piece of cotton. When the prints were finished, White signed them in white paint to authenticate them. Rawson herself signs this one.

Rawson's original hand-tinted images, which have hung in many New Zealand homes, are now collectables, going for about $300 to $900, depending on size.

The 408-page Hand-Coloured New Zealand by Peter Alsop purports to tell the story of these prints but we can't find it in print, despite a publication date of November 2106.

You can certainly hand tint monochrome images now just as Rawson does it, which lends a meditative, pleasant quality to the process. Marshall's Photo Oils have been the industry standard for years.

You can do much the same in image editing software without getting your hands dirty. And you can use a color photo as a reference for the color values, too.

Or, you know, you can just sit back and watch a master at work: Grace Rawson.

BackBack to Photo Corners