Painting Memories by Fratuzzi

I go by the name of Fratuzzi. That’s the name I chose in 2015, at age 19, when I started colorizing old black and white photographs. Being a bit shy of this weird hobby, a pseudonym felt like the way to go. Randomly browsing the web, I came across a colorized photo of Abraham Lincoln. It blew my mind. Next thing I know, I was on YouTube, typing in “how to colorize”, and watching the first video to come up.

My first colorization was of my grandma. An old photo from the 1960s. She was so young. It was a photo from a party. She was dressed up and laughing along with friends. I printed it out and went to see her the next day. If the Abraham Lincoln photo blew my mind, this one was like a tsunami of emotions sweeping her back. She stared at it for a long time. I could see the memories coming back to her. We spent the next hour talking about that day so long ago. She said it felt like being there again. I then knew I was in the business of painting memories.

And, through memories; we continue to live.

In high school, there was a traveling theater that visited our school. The play was called “The museum of memories”. We, the audience, sat in a circle and watched the play take place all around us. It was about a young boy who had committed suicide. His brother tried to remember his life, his face, and all the little details that made him who he was. The soul. When someone dies, they live on through the memories of their friends and family. When they die, you’re gone forever. Then there is no one to tell your stories and the memory of you is gone.

Crowley, Louisiana. 1938. Photo by Russell Lee

Years later I was watching the movie “Coco.” Once again this theme presented itself to me. The memory of an old song sparks memories of Cocos father and his face is revealed on a photo. The memory keeps him alive. Had Coco not heard the old song, the memory of her father would forever be gone.

Mexico. Ca. 1960. Photo by Marcela Taboada

Then, once more, I was exposed to this. The comedian Dave Chapelle had won the Mark Twain Prize. In his acceptance speech he thanked his mom. She had at an early age introduced him to the stories of the “Griot” from Africa. They were the people charged with keeping the stories of the village. When a Griot dies, it’s like if a whole library burns down. All those stories and memories gone. People forgotten.

Sudan. Unknown date. Photo by Abbas Habiballa

This idea that someone lives on through the memories of others has been with me since seeing that play in high school. It keeps appearing now and then, introducing me to new ways of looking at it. And this is why I choose to colorize. To me, the colors keep the stories alive. I have received blessings from thankful family members saying a colorized photo brought tears to their eyes. A forgotten memory was brought to life, and these people become alive once more.

Wisconsin. 1940. Photo by John Vachon

Text and colorizations by Fratuzzi.

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