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Croydon Photographer Rescues Historic Family Photo

Family photos are a precious heirloom that increases in importance from generation to generation. Photos are something that in my Grandad's later years has become increasingly more important to him. His rooms are now flooding with photos and are a nice way to think of his precious loved ones. There is one photo I know is dear to him and that is one of his mother and grandparents.

It was a sharp shock to my system discovering this photo from 1908 significantly degraded. This photo had lasted so long until 2021. So what happened? A family member thought it was a good idea to remove the protective glass, but not carefully. Instead of enlisting a professional (restorer, scanner), the photo was removed exposing it to damage to make new copies of it. I could not believe what I saw, the blood drained from my face as I saw what was once a great photo converted to a shadow of its former self.

Significant parts of this article were no more. Ripped off limbs, missing faces, large hideous cracks, it was truly a nightmare. Strangely, I felt more traumatised than my grandad.

One of the negatives about prints is, that if they are mistreated and damaged they are not easily recoverable. Photos can lose colour, contrast and more if exposed to harsh environments. However physical prints looked after can outlast generations.

As you can see there is a lot wrong with this photo, significant rips, wear and tear, what looks to be historic cracks in the glass resulting in ugly lines on the photo. There are no known surviving negatives of this portrait, my options were limited. I am no photo restorer by occupation and was entirely unsure where to start. I knew I would need a reference to go by. I knew I needed a photo of this picture to reconstruct it.

In this photo is an early surviving image of my Grandad's mother (bottom right look carefully), his grandmother and grandad. My Great, great grandad was a police officer, this at the time was a highly respected occupation. The style is very classic for the time with the very respectable attire and posing going on. These types of photos are exceptional, to say the least, it was deserving of restoration.

There was a silver lining in this cloud. Thankfully before the photo had been agitated this crucial photo was taken. In this digital copy were some critical details that were hopelessly lost in the original print. It was clear that to get the photo back to its original glory this copy was the best bet. It by no means was perfectly aligned or in the best condition but it was certainly better than nothing.

The positives of this image were the detail in the clothes, I could make out some features that were not clear. I could also play around with this image and not worry about doing more damage. Some of you may be wondering why there is a sepia colour. One thing I did not know was that the image was always black and white but the glass through the years had lost it's translucent properties and gained some brown. It was only when I removed the already damaged glass that I spotted the original was black and white.

In the end, my grandad was pleased to see the photo restored. Fortunately for me did not seem to mind the new legs that had made their way into the photo. "And cue the historical storytelling". I am glad that an important piece of family history has been restored and can be enjoyed by hopefully many more generations. I have one last piece to do and that is to replace the glass with some perplex. This will hopefully protect the image as it hangs once again.

You may notice the frame here is wooden, this was a hand made frame by a craftsman from Guyana in 1908. It is a unique part of the photo that adds to his importance. I am glad to see it reunited with the photo it was made for (photo resized).

To conclude photos are a wealth of information that can be passed onto generations. I would encourage you to have something to pass down the line in a printed format. Thank you for reading my blog. If you are looking for a Croydon photography studio with a trusted photographer click the link here. We are now back up and running albeit with some minor restrictions and protocols.

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