An artist in western Ireland, and a few select friends, have recently viewed images of the Promised Land that few people had seen in more than 100 years — three-dimensional, full-color, turn-of-the-20th-century scenes of Jerusalem and the now-West Bank.
Matt Loughrey has developed a process for colorizing old black-and-white and sepia photographs and monochromatic movie footage (using software designed by two Israeli MIT students), and making them 3-D. And he has recently completed a project of restoring a group of pictures as well as a frame-by-frame 49-second movie of Jerusalem’s Jaffa Gate and the American Colony section, and of the Tekoah village.
Loughrey, a self-taught artist who was raised Catholic, said he chose the old images of Palestine, all in public domain, most of them in the online collection of the Library of Congress, as part of his educational mission to make history come alive.
Life is not lived in black and white, he said in a telephone interview from his County Mayo home. “It’s done in red, green and blue.”
When photography and motion picture technology were blossoming in the late 19th century, photographers and cinematographers focused their lenses on historic corners of the world — including the Promised Land.
But apart from a few scholars, no one has seen many of these pictures of Palestine before, certainly not in color, Loughrey said.
So, after bringing color to old images of such subjects as the Civil War and the U.S. space program, he turned his painstaking interest to the Holy Land.
He’s toured the Middle East, but never visited Israel or the Palestinian territories. He found “the quality of the images” of Jaffa Gate and Tekoah compelling. Though interested in the region, he has no political or religious agenda. “I’ve never met a Jewish person in my life.”
His goal, he said, is to share his finished product with a wider audience. While museums, libraries and universities have commissioned his earlier work, he’s not yet exhibited his colorized renderings of Palestine beyond his own circle of friends, who find in them contemporary relevance. Looking at 1900 Jerusalem, they see 2019 Israel, he said. “It’s like time travel.”
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