Restoration Challenge

First blog in some time… It’s not been quiet, I’ve moved studios, and been rehearsing for a theatre show too (and there will be blogs about them at some point) but wanted to register this interesting challenge…! I was asked to produce a new set of prints from the following two pictures which were in a relatively poor condition. They were old prints which had had some painting to make them colour photos rather than the black & white of the time. This was a reasonably common technique and the only way to produce ‘colour’ photographs in that era.

The original photos of a male and female were:-

I tackled the male pic first as although more physically damaged (with tears in the image and corners badly marked or not there), it was the easier to go at as the facial features were pretty well intact. The whole idea as well was to restore close to how the image was as a painted photos, not to make it look like the original photo.

So I went through a couple of stages on this as shown in the following photos:-

So, the first shows some basic repairs to the tears in the picture and basic tidying of the corners, to give a cleaner looking image. Then there was more detailed editing / repairing done to clean up the image in many places and a crop to make the edge clean too. The second picture above also shows the suit tidied up with lines ‘drawn’ to show the suit features, and also the hankie in the suit pocket was made white like the shirt which was brightened too. The whole image was brightened and the suit more defined, and then the face / background was tidied for small areas of damage. This refining took some time, and the output was the following image:-

The female photo proved a bigger challenge in restoration as the face was stained and damaged and in many places worn badly as if the painted photo had got rubbed badly in some way. The approach was similar to above in cropping and tidying obvious damage outside the face to give the following images:-

In the first image above, the face was tidied a little and some of the background cleaned up too. The second image shows the rebuilding of the nose and the cheeks, and some rebuilding of and around the eyes. I didn’t want to completely replace the eyes and nose but it is hard to ‘see’ the original beneath the dirt and damage, so I did the best I could in creating the features. Next I worked on the mouth and lower jaw.

The mouth was difficult and it ended up being ‘painted’ on in a similar manner perhaps to the original painting. Not exactly a match for the old one but in proportion. The second photo above shows the mouth complete and a tidy up of the eyebrows and some more work on the eyes. And eventually with some further tidying of the background and some ‘creation’ of extra dress to make the image match better the male picture in terms of scale, the following end picture was produced.

A real challenge but an enjoyable and rewarding one as the client was very happy with the end result saying it had exceeded her expectations. So am very pleased when I get that kind of feedback. And now having secured those images in digital form too, the client can pass on the historic photos in a secure form. Thank you to the client (AB) for allowing me to do the work and letting me blog on it too…!

Andy 17 May 2022.

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