Thursday, July 25, 2013

TED talk: Becci Manson: (Re)touching lives through photos


This TED talk from about a year ago is an interesting example of service through photography. Becci Manson, a professional retoucher, helped organize efforts to restore damaged photos of victims of the 2011 tsunami and earthquake in Japan.  I suppose you could argue that the damaged photo is somehow more authentic and adds memory (although a negative one) to the ephemeral object, but I doubt that any of the recipients of the retouching services indulged that kind of academic perspective.

Photo restoration is a lot more complicated that beauty retouching, and my own experience in it has mainly been with old photos retouched for family or friends. A good (although a bit dated—2006) book for learning restoration techniques is Katrin Eisman's Photoshop Restoration & Retouching, which it looks like you can get used for as cheap as $5.55 on Amazon.  There's a more recent restoration and retouching book (2010) that seems to have good reviews, but I haven't read it. I had the opportunity to help with some photos for a woman in our neighborhood who was doing a book of her family history. She had been working for at least a year on it when she first showed it to my son and I. When I saw the scans of photos she was using, I knew I could make them so much better (of course I think that pretty much every time I see a photo—I'm sure it's like hair stylists looking at people's hair or dentists looking at their teeth). In some cases, I rephotographed the originals and worked from there. In others, I worked from the scan. My son even helped with some of the easier retouching. There were old family photos that were torn or had a big chunk missing from the middle of the photo. Where I could, I restored the missing parts.  When I get a chance, maybe I'll give a tutorial of some basics.

Have any of you had the chance to use your retouching skills for service?  If not, maybe you will think of someone you could help out.

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