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Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart Blog

PHOTOGRAPHER’S NIGHTMARE: Client returns faded wedding album after nearly 40 years!!

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Not many people would pick me as a wedding photographer – Well, I’ve been to many, shot a few and even been employed as the wedding photographer. One of my photographs was the highest scoring wedding photograph at the AIPP Awards in 1991, and in the mid 1990s, I won the award ‘Queensland Innovative Wedding Photographer of the Year’ on two occasions. Masquerading as a wedding album, one of my artists books is even held in the State Library of Queensland’s rare books collection. SEE: http://srlopac.slq.qld.gov.au/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=1381161

My wedding photography ‘career’ began auspiciously, as I guess most photographers do – with a family wedding. I was a naive 18 year old studying photography part-time at the College of Art in Brisbane. At the time I was working with an old Mamiya C33 and an M3 Leica with a Metz 202 flash, and the idea of shooting a wedding an adventure. At the time I was working at Kodak and some of my clients helped me out with advice and the ‘slip your prints in’ album that was the final outcome for the project.

All went to plan – I did the bride in the mirror at home, in the church during the ceremony with flash, the bride and groom walking up the isle, a quasi-documentary bride ‘n’ groom outside the church, family groups, bride and groom in the rear window of the car and the cake cutting. My brother Garry did marry Sheridan Draisey at All Saints Church and I had the photos to prove it.

Wedding mosaic

Wedding mosaic

Kodak printed the images; probably at their colour lab in Sydney as the Brisbane lab was still doing black and white processing exclusively. The prints were slipped into the pages and passed on to the happy couple.

Time passes…

A few years ago I heard through the family grapevine that the album was falling apart and that images were fading. I wonder how many photographers experience this fear of whether their goods and services will last and the possibility of the disgruntled client appearing from the past with faded, leuco-cyan (reddish) or yellowed prints and the grunge of time coating everything? Eventually I was reunited with the album and its sorry condition. What to do?

The original album

The original album

I scanned the images and used simple Adobe Photoshop techniques to remove casts and reconstitute faded colours. All images were reprinted on inkjet pigments and archival papers and the pages fitted into a new album cover. A CD-Rom was included loaded with the restored jpeg images. The original album was assembled as best as possible, wrapped archivally and inserted into a container for safe keeping and the new album similarly presented.

Before & after Adobe Photoshop restoration

Before & after Adobe Photoshop restoration

On the next convenient occasion the album was represented to the client (my sister-in-law). She excitedly reviewed the album and recounted the wedding, and the stories of those in the group photos were updated – even perhaps made alive by their remembrance and telling.

The New Album

The New Album

My experience made me think about how photographers constantly push ‘photo memories’ as a selling point for choosing a professional photographer for important events. And I wondered how often the pro photographer’s images may, as in this case, not last as well as everyone might have expected. I came to also reflect upon how memories are recreated through photographs and how important the photograph of times past is for people – particularly as they age.

As the photographer and re-creator of the album I was rewarded by the experience and how many a faded image may be restored to its memorable potential by Adobe Photoshop. It is interesting how digital imaging was once touted as being the death of photography – it may very well be its salvation.

Doug Spowart

The photographer in the wedding group with brothers Garry and Peter

The photographer in the wedding group with brothers Garry and Peter

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