As versions of the world appear online, more people are seeking ways to stay connected with their histories and turn something old into something new.
“Colorize Lebanon,” an Instagram page Youssef Berjaoui launched in late November, 2019, takes black-and-white snaps of Lebanon and posts them in complete color, as though they were taken yesterday.
The revamped palette breathes life into archived images, while drawing attention to the country’s history with a heavy dose of nostalgia.
“I got the idea about three years ago. I had old family photos that were badly damaged and I wanted to see them restored in color so that was my first bit step of the project,” Berjaoui told The Daily Star. “I started finding very nice photos of Lebanon from the 1900s and ’50s. Once you see them in color it gives you a whole different perspective.”
Using Photoshop, Berjaoui painstakingly colorizes the pictures, with some images taking weeks to complete. The snaps are mostly taken from copyright-free open-source archives like the Library of Congress and the National Archive.
Berjaoui researches each pic to get as close to authentic coloring as possible, but sometimes it comes down to an educated guess.
“I can’t be sure 100 percent that the colors are correct, obviously. For example with the photo of the green tram, when looking at the grayscale clues, it shows that it was a uniform green color,” he explained. “I also managed to find color photos of the tram which show that there were green, red and white ones or the older yellow trams. I try to find reference photos for things from the same time to give an indication, or research mentions of certain colors.”
Some of the most popular snaps include a pristine Jounieh Bay during the ’50s, with its turquoise water and only a couple of chalets between the beach and the mountains.
Another shows the ’50s-era Martyrs’ Square, well before Civil War and reconstruction drastically changed the landscape. “The Cinema Opera and Ezzedine Building are the only two retained buildings on this square after the Civil War,” the caption informs readers.
“Lebanon has changed drastically throughout the years, and the old heritage buildings are fading away,” Berjaoui said. “Restoring the old photos in color gives a new sense of perspective and a window to a different era that lies within our memories.
“We do have NGOs and activists for preserving heritage, such as Save Beirut Heritage,” he added. “Hopefully, my work will also be another factor contributing to shedding light on the topic. We all have to contribute to something.
“It is heartbreaking to see what we once had, no longer is,” he said. “Not to mention all the pollution, environmental destruction and bad resource mismanagement etc.”