The objective of this assignment was to learn the skills necessary to edit, restore, and color an image or photograph. We were to include, in varying combinations: a cropped and resized image; a restored photograph; a hand-colored photograph; a vignetted photograph; a matted engraving; a “before and after” of two examples

The colors for this page were inspired by the subject of my first photograph, a member of the National Woman's Party, whose sashes were purple, yellow, and white.

Virginia Arnold: Restoration, Cropping, Vignette

For the restoration, cropping, and vignette, I selected an image from the American Memory collection at the Library of Congress. Mindful of the fact that my final project will be for a design for an organization whose focus is the history of women in the U.S. south, I searched for images of women from my home state of North Carolina. I found an image of Miss Virginia Arnold.

Miss Arnold was from North Carolina, and had been a student at George Washington University and Columbia University, as well as a school teacher and organizer. When the photograph was taken in 1916, she was the National Executive Secretary of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (National Woman's Party). The photograph was taken in Washington, DC, at the studio of Harris & Ewing, and published in The Suffragist in March 1917.

Virginia Arnold in pinstripe suit, hat, holding bag
Miss Virginia Arnold, Library of Congress.
Virginia Arnold, as before, image cleared of scratches and dust
Photograph of Miss Arnold after restoration.

To clean the image, I began following the instructions from the video. I started with the larger spots, eliminating them to the best of my ability. I moved on to going systematically through the image at 300 percent zoom, cleaning up spots and small scratches, as well as fixing some wear on the edges of the photo. I modified the levels and curves layers, trying to crisp up the image. Unfortunately, it also got darker as I went along, which means some of the fine detail in the original is lost. I keep having this problem when “fixing” old photographs; clearly, I need to try to understand why and how the images get so much darker.

cropped image of Arnold, head and shoulders only
cropped image of Arnold head and shoulders, vignette focused on face

The cropped image was created through the simple use of the crop tool. I decided to do a headshot, as one might use for an identifying photograph. To vignette, I added a second layer, darkened it, created an oval mask and then applied a gaussian blur. I used a slightly looser crop on the vignette to try and capture more of a vintage wallet or locket photograph.

Isadora Dean Scott: Coloring

Miss Virginia Arnold was very interesting in her way, but the photograph was too dark for a novice photoshop user such as myself. For coloring, therefore, I chose a new photograph, one with more personal resonance.

The photograph I chose is one of my ancestors, Isadora Dean Scott. She was born in 1861 and grew up in New Orleans. She married Carroll Augustine Devol, and their daughter Mary Adelaide was my great-grandmother. The photograph is of her as a girl, scanned by my father (who has put a number of family photos online on Flickr).

To color the photograph, I first had to clean up some of the scratches and dust, as above. I also darkened and sharpened the defining edges of the girl and stool, in order to make it easier to color within the lines. I used the magnetic selector tool to make and save selections for each of the major elements (hair, skin, left dress, right dress, cuffs, bow, stool, and so on), which I colored in using the brush tool set to screen at a low opacity.

Girl leaning on stool, faded and scratched
image as before, colored. blue dress, red stool.

I made Isadora a brunette because photos of her as an older woman make it seem that she was one. I may have her hair slightly darker than it was in life; it is more likely to have been more blonde, as my sister's was when she was a girl. Her eyes are blue, like my father's. I chose to make the dress blue primarily because that's the color I think of when I think of Victorian girls' dressess

Matted Engraving

charter oak of Connecticut
Charter Oak

For the engaving, I used a pictoral envelope, again from the American Memory collection at the Library of Congress. The original is held by the New-York Historical Society, and depicts an oak which is meant to represent the charter oak of Connecticut. The caption for the oak is “The Tree of Connecticut Liberty!” To remove the background and properly matt the engraving, I followed the instructions laid out in Scholarship on the Web: Managing Engravings.