Kathryn Rutherford Blog Header

Kathryn Rutherford Blog Header

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Tattered Photograph

    Walter Maison Ives
June 29, 1899 - September 5, 1963

Greetings everyone!
For this posting I thought I might leave you with a more unique thought.

     I have an astounding quirk of personality in that I can often be found proclaiming that I would never consider doing something more than once any more than I would devote the rest of my life to a particular artistic style or technique to which I have recently been introduced.  This proclamation often leaves me humbled before my friends, family and peers when I find myself continuing with anything I've learned years after so profoundly verbalizing my first opinion of disdain.
     One of these statements takes me back to the late 1970's when I was first introduced to the fields of photographic and fine art restoration.  I was studying photographic retouching at Winona, the Professional Photographers of America School of Photography, now located in Atlanta, Georgia.  Under the direction of the world renown artisan and photographer, Helen Yancy, I was being instructed to use my artistic abilities and an airbrush to photographically, and flawlessly, alter, enhance and restore photographs. 
     I had never before used an airbrush as an artistic instrument and found myself struggling to control the variable capabilities of the unfamiliar tool.  As the week's instruction went on and my battle to conquer this new instruction continued I heard myself saying, "If you think I would do this for a living you are out of your mind". 

     Long pause............

     Here it is in the twenty-first century and I have spent every day of the past thirty-one years (among other specialties) restoring, altering and duplicating photographs.  As I built an internationally known business of fine art and restoration services, taught at home and internationally and built my reputation up to become one of the top eight artisans in the portrait, photographic and restoration fields, I have chewed and eaten every word of my so long ago uttered statement not once, but many times over. 
     I once said I couldn't see myself doing photographic restoration or alteration work for a living yet, looking back, I cannot think of anything more rewarding both financially and, more important, emotionally. 
     Even though there is a digital airbrush in there for those who choose to use it, the computer now takes the place of many of the old photographic art and darkroom techniques.  It gives a person the capabilities to do some of the retouching and restoration work themselves that was previously only supplied by specialists in the field.  Many photographers remove their subject's loose hairs, blemishes, add interesting backgrounds, text and special effects to the photographs they capture and I no longer have to face stacks and stacks of the kind of work I once supplied to photographers and clients in seventeen countries around the world.  I can now concentrate on the work required of a craftsman (or woman) and restore original photographs and paintings, duplicate historic and aged photographs with old world darkroom techniques and create artistic works where portraits, backgrounds, alterations or restorations could only be achieved because of my personal talents and skills. 
     Regardless of the medium, equipment or tool, I am returning to my customers a one of a kind work of art that is near and dear to their heart that could be created by no other.  My work is artistically unique and, as such, will be cherished for many generations yet to come because it Brings Back Memories Of Another Time.
     So much of my work is emotional.  Tears of remembrances and hugs of joy often accompany the time I spend in consultation with my clients.  This is the happiness and contentment I get from my work and, today, I would like to express some of that emotion surrounding my work by posting the following verse.  This poem was written by a fellow member of the Professional Photographers of America and printed earlier in the January 1986 Professional Photographs Magazine.  These words express the range of emotion that is derived by the work that myself, and those in my industry, derive from working with treasured images of our customer's past. One couldn't ask for anything more than to be rewarded by their work and truly fulfilled by it when the day is done. 

by Marty Ricard M. Photog Cr., CPP

She sat before me, wrinkled, gray
   A tear upon her cheek.
Her head was bowed, her eyes cast down,
   She could barely speak.

Her Husband of a half a century
  Had taken glory's path.
Now all she had were memories
   And one tattered photograph.

She looked up with beggar's eyes
   And asked so tenderly,
Can you repair this photograph?
   It means the world to me.

For fifty years I felt his touch.
   Now deaths torn us apart.
This photograph is all I have
   To ease the aching of my heart.

I fixed the cracks across the face
   And brightened up his eye.
And when she saw the photograph
   She could only cry.

How much?  She sobbed, it matters not.
   I'll pay any fee.
I said, I only want a smile,
   That's good enough for me.

She squeezed my hand and paid her bill
   And in a solemn tone,
She said, My husband's picture
   Is the dearest thing I own.

The months slipped by so swiftly.
   I saw her now and then.
And every time she took my hand
   She paid her bill again.

Then, one day she passed away
   And I went to say good bye.
But, when I saw her lying there
   I couldn't help but cry.

A gentle smile adorned her lips
   But, on her lifeless breast,
They had placed that precious photograph
   ...It was her last request.

Stocks and bonds and diamond rings
   She left to fade away.
She only took the dearest thing
   On this, her final day.

Yes, she took that portrait with
   her into eternity.
And with that special photograph
   Went a tiny part of me.

And each of us must ne'er forget
   Who share this precious craft
That wondrous thread of golden love
   We weave into each photograph.   

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