Uncovering the past / by Mario Mirabile

It's never easy going through a departed loved ones effects. There is sadness, confusion (what the hell is this thing???), guilt (I don't want this, but it doesn't feel right getting rid of it....), and more than a few surprises. We've been through this recently after the passing of my mother-in-law. One of the great treasures, of course,  are the photos found tucked away in so many corners. I prepared the memorial slide show for the funeral, and in the process discovered many gems I've never seen before. At the time, I came across only one photo of Jeanette and Murray's wedding, which perhaps was odd give the prominence normally given to such events. It was a photo of them leaving the church in a deluge, a picture which ended up in the papers as it turned out to be one of the wettest days on record in Melbourne.

A couple of weeks ago, Trish handed me an envelope and asked if there was anything I could do with the contents. It contained nine small pictures from her parents wedding day, or at least what was left of them. My first thought was the the pictured - bronzed, faded, stained and cracked, were beyond help. Nevertheless, I took them to a restoration expert, hoping there might be some chemical solution to their condition. They said they could (for a substantial fee), scan, re-convert to black and white and touch-up the pictures. Thinking "well, I can try that", I gave it a go. With a bit of fiddling with the scanner settings and in Photoshop, the, the results are, to say the least, remarkable. The first image shows what the pictures look like to the eye, and the rest after a bit of digital magic. These were the pick of the bunch, the ones with the least deterioration which looked like they had the best chance of resurrection. The rest, while improved to some degree, are not nearly so good. Nevertheless, a win for the digital  age.

Tech Talk
The restoration expert thought these were likely to be proofs, which may explain their condition. Perhaps they were intended to deteriorate, increasing the chances the clients would buy enlargements. In any case, I was surprised how much detail my 10 year old scanner could extract. from the faded originals Scanned at 1200 DPI and imported into Photoshop, with Nik Silver Efex Pro to handle the mono conversion, Colour filters - orange in particular - removed the deep orange-red cast, after which it was a matter of some judicious cloning to remove spots, cracks and creases.