Friday, August 30, 2013

Photographic History Brought Back To Life

Will Holland and friend - 1925
In 1925, Will Holland stopped into a photography shop with a friend and had a novelty photograph taken. He and my grandmother had immigrated from Tennessee to Detroit in the 1920s looking for work. 

One of the first jobs he was able to find was driving a truck, running bootleg liquor from Canada throughout the Detroit area for a group of Irish entrepreneurs. In the winter, he would drive across the frozen Detroit River to make pickups and deliveries.

My grandfather gave this photograph to my mother before he died in the late 1930s. Not much is known about him because my grandparents were divorced, and my grandmother attempted to purge all memory of him from her life. My mother kept the photograph of her father secretly hidden.

When my mother passed on several years ago, I received the photograph in an envelope with some more recent family photos. I tucked the envelope away for safe keeping and forgot about it until last week when I was looking for something else.

The quality of the photo really deteriorated. It had gone from bad to worse. Not only had it faded over the decades, it had turned brown and the photo paper was beginning to separate. I decided to see if it could be restored because I wanted to preserve this bit of family history and make prints for the rest of the family.

I discovered the name of a local San Diego photo restorer from an ad on Facebook and gave him a call. Paul Hartsuyker is a retired Mesa College professor who has taught Photoshop workshops for twenty years. After he retired, he decided to go pro. See the link.

Restored photograph
I was able to sit next to him while he explained what he was doing.

"Digitally manipulating an antique photograph is an exercise in give and take. For example, do you sacrifice detail for contrast and brightness?"

He went back and forth like an optometrist, "Do you like this one or this one?" He allowed me to make decisions as he worked on the photo.

I was quite pleased with the result. I would have liked more clarity, but there was only so much that the original had to give. This picture freezes a moment in time and captures a gag snapshot which is one of my most cherished family photographs.