Blowup: Color Photography and TV in WWII

John Hinderaker of Power Line links to a fascinating series of color photographs of the London blitz, originally taken by Time-Life and collated by the London Sun:

We have written before about the fact that earlier historical eras seem remote from us in part because we see them (assuming we see them in photographs at all) in black and white. The absence of color creates a distance that can be hard to bridge. Thus, it can seem revelatory when one finally sees in color views that before had been available only in shades of gray.

Today, the Sun published a series of color photos of London, taken during the blitz in 1945. It is not clear exactly where they came from, but the Sun says they were shot in color and have not been seen before. As usually happens, the color photos suddenly make historical events more real to the viewer.

There have been a number of collections of color photographs of the 1930s and ’40s — and even earlier — that have been unearthed and widely distributed by the Blogosphere. And as John writes, “It is striking how seeing events in color brings them into the ambit of what we think of as contemporary history.”

Also in the 1930s and ’40s, Nazi Germany was experimenting with an even more advanced technology, television:

As the text under the Google video notes:

Michael Kloft’s documentary on the history of Nazi television. Legend has it that the triumphal march of television began in the United States in the ‘fifties. But in reality its origins hark back much further. As early as the ‘thirties, a bitter rivalry raged for the world’s first television broadcast. Nazi Germany wanted to beat the competition from Great Britain and the U.S. – at all costs. Reich Broadcast Director Hadamovsky christened the new-born “Greater German Television” in March 1935. And it was only in September 1944 that the last program flickered across the TV screens. For a long time the belief persisted that only very few Nazi programs had survived, but SPIEGEL TV has now succeeded in tracking down a stock of television films and reports which have remained intact since the end of the Third Reich.

The hour-long video (also available from Amazon) charts how closely the fortunes of Nazi television and that of the Third Reich as a whole were intertwined. Nazi TV’s final days were spent first beaming programs filled with scantily-clad dancing girls to help wounded soldiers pass the time in German hospitals. Finally, when the end was becoming even more apparent, programs were devoted to therapeutic regiments for amputee soldiers, including exercises designed to get them back into some form of productive service. It’s grim stuff; and a reminder that pace McLuhan, sometimes the medium, which we take for granted to this day, and the nightmarish messages which can be displayed on it, are two very different things.