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Past times: Black and white photos of life in Dundee come alive in colour

Dundee old photos colour
"There was so much going on here, it's hard to know where to begin."

Old photos have been newly colourised to shed a different light on life in Dundee from the Victorian era up to the 1960s.

These are scenes from the city’s history that you’ve probably never seen this way before.

Dundee actor Gordon Morris took to social media and posted a fuzzy version of a black and white image of three men standing in Reform Street.

That caught the attention of the Twitter user Mock Chopped who decided the image was a perfect candidate to colourise using an app from his smartphone.

Boy selling newspapers was barefoot

So many stories suddenly emerged from just one early snapshot of city life from the late 19th century at what was then known as Duffer’s Corner.

The black and white photograph which was brought to life in colour.

“There was so much going on here, it’s hard to know where to begin,” he said.

“Look at the boy selling newspapers next to the three wealthy men.

“He’s barefoot.

“As I have long had a keen interest in Dundee’s history, it was a stark example of the wealth and poverty which existed in Victorian Dundee together in one photo.

“As such, it was a perfect candidate for me to recolour.

“I find that recolouring often brings out parts of an image that are easily overlooked when it is in black and white.

“Perhaps it’s the colour itself, or maybe it’s the close-up work required – but there is always something that you notice which you hadn’t spotted before.

“In this photo it was the figure at the window.

“In a previous Dundee photo it was a birdcage and bird on a windowsill.

“Little things that make the entire image more rich and layered.”

Shops visible in the photo included H & W Tulloch which was a hatters and men’s mercers that was started by brothers Henry and William.

After Henry died in 1904, his widow sold the business and the familiar sight of jeweller H Samuels moved there in 1910 from its previous location around the corner.

Lift idea was based on a hotel in Boston

You can also see the shadow of some letters on the wall behind the three men.

They spell out Strathtay House which was an outfitters run by Adam Smail.

The building was the first in Dundee to have a lift, based on one seen in an hotel in Boston.

The site has been long since occupied by Boots.

Tindal’s Wynd looking down to the Royal Arch.

“I’m sure many people would be surprised to learn that it was all done on my phone and I brought it to life using an app,” said Mocked Chop.

“I’ve used it for many years, so for me it’s easier than needing to fire up the laptop and sit at a desk.

“The technique of recolouring involves the addition of many layers of colour and blending.

“Each layer is added, a colour chosen, then ‘painted’ in using my fingers.

“It’s important to be accurate with edges as it shows up really quickly if you are slapdash or rushed.

The original Dundee police photograph which Mock Chop decided to colour.

“You generally start at the background and work your way forward.

“The trickiest parts are accuracy and skin tones.

“Accuracy of colours can be difficult, which is where research online often helps.

“This helped me recently with a repair of an old Dundee police photo as I discovered that their uniforms were likely to be a very dark blue rather than black.

Dundee old photos colour
The original torn black and white photo now shows off the Thin Blue Line.

“Skin tones are always difficult because skin contains lots of colours and shades.

“It’s far more than just adding a bit of pink!

“We often have noses that are a little more red, the earlobes and eyes may also have more red.

“And of course cheeks can be flushed.

This photograph shows the before and after process with the original image merging with the colour version to show the Shed end at Tannadice.

“Each face may have umpteen layers of colour at varying shades before I’m happy.

“Each photo takes several hours.

“I think the Reform Street photo has over 60 layers.”

A hobby which started with old family photos

Mock Chopped has recoloured photos as a hobby for some time.

United legend Jimmy Briggs.

He started with family photos and has since moved on to other topics.

Over the last year he has recoloured several old photos of Dundee United players including Jimmy Briggs and supporters during a match in the old Shed.

He said: “It was lovely to get a reply from the grandson of Jimmy Briggs telling me how thrilled he was to see it.

“I also recoloured a photo of Jean Fletcher who was the only known Dundonian who was killed at Auschwitz.

Dundee old photos colour
Cyclists at Baxter Park in this undated photo which has been given a new life.

“There’s also one of an old cycling group in Baxter Park which I brought back to life and I would love to recolour more old Dundee photos from the archives.”

Framed version now on Gordon’s wall

Actor Gordon Morris, who stars in Ridley Scott’s The Terror, said he’s been blown away by Mock Chopped’s work.

“I love old Dundee photos and the black and white version of this really interested me,” he said.

“Then when I saw Mock Chopped’s colourised version I was absolutely blown away by the detail!

“It made the picture come alive and I just sat there trying to imagine the kind of life the people in the photo might have lived.

“Mock Chopped very generously gifted me a framed copy which takes pride of place on my wall”.

Dundee old photos colour
Former United star Doug Smith was another player who was given the Mock Chopped treatment.