In recent years, there has been growing interest in learning about our ancestry. At-home DNA tests have accumulated over 26 million users worldwide, DIY tutorials for making your family tree abound online, and connections have been made amongst distant relatives. Although wondering about one’s history is nothing new (as we have been doing it for thousands of years), advancements in technology have certainly facilitated this blossoming process.
Photography plays a dear and meaningful role. Along with oral stories and written pieces, photos create a visual relationship. They are a portal of sorts, to view our ancestors, their surroundings, and what life was like in their era. People can feel a stronger connection to historical figures and their relatives through photographs.
This precious connection is one major reason why safely digitizing and archiving negatives, slides, and photographs deserve to be a priority in your efforts to maintain your family history. And if some items are already faded or damaged, know that restoration is always an option.
How often a customer reaches out, having downloaded a photo from Ancestry.com- many times the only photo in known existence of a particular relative. Even if a tiny or pixelated file, there is often work that can be done to improve it. And regardless of restoration, these downloaded photo files can take on new life as prints. Pictures are a very accessible form of recorded history and are worthy of being cherished and carried into the future.
A Gateway to Self-Discovery
Old family photos have a more significant impact on our lives than most people realize. They shape our identity, as they can shed some light on difficult questions like where we come from or why we are the way we are. They provide a sense of belonging to a particular place or culture. And they help us find a place in humanity and contemporary culture as topics like race and origin become more often discussed.
Photographs are also the best resource to reconstruct memories, as we all know that our minds may dim with time. Anyone going through an old photo album has experienced the joy, sorrow, grief, or healing of seeing precious moments with a long-lost friend or a distant family member. Photos stir emotions and remind us of lessons and people who have impacted our lives one way or another. They can act as a treasure map of what we have done with our lives.
When preparing for his first retrospective show, British artist Grayson Perry heavily regretted not having many pictures of his earliest work. As he wrote for The Guardian, “I had put on whole exhibitions in the 1980s without taking a single photograph”. That is why documenting our experiences is precious. And if you have done so, it is essential to preserve them with the help of a professional.
The Power of Digitizing and Restoration
Unfortunately for many, it is a common occurrence that decades worth of family photographs have not been kept the best way possible. Many factors can influence a photograph’s longevity — storage conditions or environmental elements like humidity and light, as well as composition, like the paper or printing technique.
However, no matter the condition, it is possible and recommended to have your photographic materials carefully digitized. That way, moving forward, any deterioration will cease because it will be stopped in time as a digital file. From there, so much is possible, like restoration, printing, and of course, sharing online.
Professional restoration takes care of different types of damages. It involves a great deal of skill and patience as it is done entirely by hand, like a real-life work of art, but with digital tools. Using Photoshop, the artist recovers or recreates every element in the image, one stroke at a time, sometimes using multiple layers to recreate the oil painting technique known as ‘glazing’, which helps to give the photograph a greater sense of depth.
The process restores photographs back to their original integrity. So when perhaps an accident has occurred, or light has gotten the best of a photo whose glass was not UV protective, or if photographic materials were stored in non-archival packaging over the years, there is a solution.
There is a way to carry beautifully restored and archived photographs into the future. Whether taking a digital file, restoring it, and creating prints with it, or taking a print, digitizing it, restoring it, and creating new prints, there are so many avenues for your photographic history to take. One thing is for sure, digital life and print life need not exist in separate realms any longer, they surely complement and enhance one another’s existence in 2022.
If you would like to know more about the process or have an image assessed, make sure to contact me. I am happy to help.