There’s a real appetite here on the internet for old black and white photos being presented in colour, but in the main they tend to focus on historic or social themes. It’s less common to see sports photography undergoing this treatment, which is why we were so struck by the work of Gooner Frog when we came across it on Facebook.
It turns out that Gooner Frog is actually Alex le Duc, a 29-year-old English teacher from Brittany, France, who in March this year started adding colour to photos of his beloved Arsenal.
“I thought my knowledge of the club’s history was not good enough. The Arsenal have a history they can be proud of. I could have gone through lines and lines of history blogs (that I enjoy) but I decided to start having a look at pictures pre 1970s.
“Obviously there were in black and white. I stumbled upon a 1936 picture of fans going to an away game with a good old school locomotive. I saw the smiles on their faces – it seemed like happy times – yet the black and white made it all look all grim (at least to my mind.) I thought it’d be fun to give it some colours and make it look like it really was.
“I trained a bit on a simple 1947 picture of Don Roper; I posted it on Twitter and it got a good reception. People found it curious, and some told me I should do some more, which I did.”
"I try to leave as few details as possible to my imagination. Some Arsenal fans are fonts of knowledge, they would not let me make a mistake on a kit colour!"Alex le Duc
Alex is the first to admit he’s an enthusiastic amateur; in fact in our early email exchanges he repeatedly asked whether I was sure I wanted to talk to him! But there’s something about his huge passion for the pictures he is working on that overrules any slight technical hitches.
“I have no art background whatsoever, I just like to fiddle with Photoshop really. I have come to handle it pretty well in all modesty – click here, click there, hours of trying, some online tutorials and here I am talking to you. I am no artist as I don’t create things, I just work on them.”
He explains that some pictures are easier to work on than others (“Pictures with crowds are very demanding; I drop them for a while, start them again, and so on”) but his main criteria when selecting images is to keep things interesting.
“I try to alternate pictures of players, fans and Highbury Stadium. I also choose some pictures that aren’t too famous then once in a while, I publish an iconic picture, something that’s very well-known among fans.”
And he goes to painstaking lengths to make sure what he adds in makes sense historically. “The biggest challenge is all that research on the kits, the fashion styles, and the players’ eye colour and hair colour.
“I try to leave as few details as possible to my imagination. Some Arsenal fans are fonts of knowledge, they would not let me make a mistake on a kit colour!!
“History is history and it must be told as such. I have teamed up with historians of the club, and a Gooner that was born in the 1940s who started going to games when he was four. They are valuable help and I am very thankful for that."
Alex wanted to thank his Twitter followers, plus special thanks to Dan aka @alsnotnutz and Paul at @Pieburycorner for their great work on setting up Operation Arsenal Art (#OpAA).
He also wanted to thank Mark @RoyalArsenalMRA , Andy @Gooner_AK , and Peter @gooner1947 for helping with the accuracy.
About the Author
Rob joined It’s Nice That as Online Editor in July 2011 before becoming Editor-in-Chief and working across all editorial projects including itsnicethat.com, Printed Pages, Here and Nicer Tuesdays. Rob left It’s Nice That in June 2015.