I’ve talked about Bessie Henderson‘s portrait before. It is perhaps the most cherished of the original photographs I hold, likely the only picture taken in her short life.
I recently asked my cousin J.G., great-grandson of Bessie’s first cousin Daniel Simmons, if he would take a shot at colorizing Bessie’s photograph. She died at 19 in early 1911, and no one now living ever saw her alive. (In fact, I’ve known only five people — my grandmother, her sister Mamie, Beulah Aldridge Carter, Fannie Aldridge Randolph, Jessie Mae Jacobs — who did. The last of them passed in 2001.) So I just wanted to see her as she might have looked. See her in something other than sepia tone.
And here she is.
I was struck on two fronts. First, there is Bessie’s beauty anew. And then … the detail. The lacy ruffles of her blouse, the tiny collar pin bar, the pleats of her skirt. And the background? It was years before I saw the white bird swooping past Bessie’s wrist. But trees? A pool of water? Ducks? Who knew?
Here’s a little video of Bessie’s progression. Thank you again, J.G.!