For many who don’t know, I moonlight in photo restoration. It’s not something that I ever got started in on purpose. As it is with most good things in my life, it found me I didn’t find it. I actually purposely tried to avoid photo restoration for a number of years. But, once I started restoring these precious relics of times past I saw how it affected the people who care about them and I was hooked!
I’m a historian at heart. In fact History was one of my many college majors (don’t make me list them all). Once I moved into my downtown Effingham location back in 2008 I started having people stop by for all things photography and I loved it. But when it came to restoring photographs that was where I drew the line until one autumn morning back in 2010. As I sat at my desk editing and listening to U2, a nice older lady came in my studio and asked me if I can restore photos. I politely explained to her that it really wasn’t my “thing”. Then I looked down and saw the Civil War tintype in her hand of a Confederate soldier. I was intrigued to say the least. I asked her if she was related to the man on the ancient looking artifact in her hand. She explained to me that this man was her great grandfather who lived in southern Missouri in 1863. The man was drafted into the Confederate Army where he was trained as a cavalryman. As soon as he got trained and got his free tintype made, he took the picture and deserted the Army and escaped to the north because his heart was with the Union. He then joined the Union Army and got another tintype made! I looked at the image of this man and was simply amazed. This wasn’t a copy. This was the actual photo that this man carried with him during one of the most turbulent time in our nation’s history. We spent the morning discussing this man and his many adventures. After a couple hours the nice woman got up to leave and I said “why don’t you leave that tintype with me and I will see what I can do with it”.
For some reason, after that there were many more projects that followed. Now, photo restoration has become a regular part of my work. I am honored to be able to give life to these old and often damaged images. I only hope that many years from now when I’m long gone that someone would care enough to preserve an image of me for posterity.
One thing that never fails is that every time I get done restoring an old image and I scan the faces of these people who are long past, I hear the voice of Robin Willams in my head. He’s saying in a slow whisper “Caaaarrrrrrpeeeee………Caaaarrrrrpeeee……Carpe Diem………Sieeeezzze the Dayyyy”.
For those who don’t know that’s a Dead Poet’s Society reference (I think in movie quotes). Here is the project that I worked on today. This is a wallet sized photo from the late 30’s that spent too much time in someone’s pocket.