When I was fifteen, I was concerned about two main things: trying to find a boyfriend, and trying to get rid of my spots, not necessarily in that order.
When a relative took the black and white photo of me that you can see above, I was horrified. “I’m spotty! How could you!” I hid it away in shame.
As the years passed, so did my spot-filled angst. But then decades later, when I got myself a computer and discovered a graphics program that would enable me to adjust photos, my immediate thought was “I wonder how the fifteen year old me would look without those spots?” So I did it. Hmm… not bad. Then the dress I was wearing in the photo reminded me of when I bought it – it had actually been a nightie but I wore it by itself as a mini-dress and later over trousers when I became a hippy. But I didn’t colour it then because I didn’t know how. I’d bought Photoshop Elements which is a ‘cut down’ version of the full Photoshop graphics program and couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to use it apart from a few very basic functions. And there was this strange thing called ‘Layers’.
Fast forward to a few years later when I taught myself to use the program properly, decided to colour it and realised, with horror, that I could no longer remember the colours in the dress. Was the main colour of the flowers pink or orange? And weren’t there lime green leaves? So I began experimenting. The bright pink I’d wondered about didn’t look right so I assumed it was orange. I added a golden yellow for the other flowers. There, that looked more familiar. Now what about the chair and it’s antimacassar? And the wallpaper?
I searched my memory for answers and gradually they came.
My lipstick in those days was pale, usually a frosted pink, and I hadn’t yet begun to use eye shadow or liner. And my hair was a dark brown, almost black, without the strands of grey that began appearing just a few years later. As I coloured it, I began to re-live so many memories, the colours bringing the good ones to the fore… and not of the spots! Amongst other things, it triggered memories of when I used to wear the dress – walks in the park with my best friend, going to pop concerts and parties, and the start of the years in which I began to enjoy myself. Memories I thought had gone forever.
And I’ve discovered that colouring photos for other people helps them remember good things, too, because it brings them to life.
I’d probably do this photo differently if I were doing it now. I’d make the colours in the dress brighter, I’d add more tonality into my hair, would make my skin a more natural colour, would lessen the intensity of the whites of my eyes and would make my irises look more natural, but it’s still not bad. And it enables me to have a colour photograph of myself from a period in which most of the people I knew couldn’t afford colour film – but would have used it if they could.
It got me started and apart from a few breaks, I’ve continued. Apart from the work I do for other people, I’ve a collection of my own family’s photos that run to over 700 and have restored and coloured just over half. When I began I wasn’t consciously aiming at colouring them all, but it seems that that is what I’m doing!
Then there is my collection of vintage RP (Real Photographic) Postcards and photos that I’ve bought over the years. There are some that I don’t want to colour, but most of them I just can’t resist doing. You’ll be seeing a good number of those in my current and future posts, along with some of my own family ones – though you won’t be seeing any photos of my parents here as I want to keep at least a little corner of my life private.
And apart from those, there is the work that I do for other people, colouring their photos and helping to bring the good parts of their past to life. Some of them may choose to put their ‘before and after’ photos online, that’s their choice, but I won’t put them here without their permission.
I hope you enjoy my website and my blog, thank you for being here!