Recently, I was contacted by Nick Harris from Photo Restoration Services offering to demonstrate his skills on some of my old family snaps.
Increasingly, family historians are using photo restoration companies to repair damaged images digitally and to enhance dull likenesses, thus helping us to discover what our ancestors looked like and even to peek into their world.
Although there is a variety of image editing software, I have never learned how to use it well. Far easier to email the images and let a professional bring them back to life.
I sent Nick two photos from my family’s collection. The first was this portrait below of my great, great grandfather, William Jolly (1842-1889).
The image on the left is the photograph I sent. On the right is the photo that Nick restored. As you can see, the first image has an odd colour, hiding the details of William’s face and the features of the garden. Thanks to Nick’s restoration skills, I can now see my ancestor’s face and the world he lived in far more clearly. The right side of the photograph was less damaged and it is now possible to make out the door handle and bell. It’s disappointing that my relatives left the lace curtains hanging as we may otherwise have been able to see some of the children peering out!
My family believes this shows my great, great grandfather standing in his Royal Engineers uniform outside his home in Enfield. His bearing in the image suggests his pride in his military career. From a descendant’s perspective, though, I would have preferred to see him without the cap as that is hiding the shape of his face. It is difficult to be certain of the date, but we do know he was overseas from 1880-1885 and he died just fours years later.
Nick also offers a black and white colourising service which could be used in military photos like the above to highlight the colour of the uniform.
The second photo (pictured above left) I sent to Nick is more mysterious. No one in the family knows who this is, but I was hoping that if it was enhanced, we would be better placed to identify the sitter. Helpfully, Nick restored not only the portrait, enabling us to better see this young man, but also the details of the photographic studio where the image was taken.
The photographers, Emberson & Sons, were based at three locations at the date this portrait was taken: Emberson & Sons, 6 Wilton Rd, Belgravia S.W., 57 St. Paul’s Churchyard E.C., and Chertsey, Surrey. According to the Photo London website, the firm was in 6 Wilton Road, Pimlico, Westminster 1885 – 1896, 1904 – 1925; 57 St Paul’s Churchyard, City of London 3 floor 1889 – 1908; and in Chertsey 1873 – 1905.
We have many London ancestors, but few who lived near Chertsey. This suggests the photograph was taken either in the City or Belgravia (near Westminster) – both central London locations.
There is so much to explore with old photos and I am in the early stages of poring over my family’s snaps. Restoration is a great way to aid historical photography investigation.