Saturday, July 4, 2015

Mold Wars

Having been born and raised in the New Orleans area, I know a thing or two about mold and mildew. It's just a fact of life in warm, humid climates. These dual enemies attack almost everything, and while the advent of air conditioning has lessened the danger somewhat, every denizen of the gulf south has experienced their damage.

Even though I now live in the mountains of western North Carolina, mold and mildew continues to be a problem. We can get fairly warm and damp here too. A friend recently asked me if I could restore a treasured photo of her as a little girl that had been ravaged by mold. She emailed me a copy to show me what the damage looked like, and yeah, it was pretty bad. Red mold on a black and white photo was a new one for me. Believe it or not, I enjoy the challenge of restoring photos like this, but this one looked really tough. Damage to skin areas and to a dress with fine polka dots would be especially challenging. At least there was no damage to the little girl's smiling face - that might have made the task too much even for Photoshop.

Original scanned photo

Besides the obvious red splotches, there were dozens of other mildew splotches and dust spots. Most could only be seen on the original print when held at a certain angle to the light, but my scanner saw them all. Like an actual wall in a home, there comes a time when cleaning is no longer good enough - it's time to re-paint. So I matched the color of the brightest area of the wall and re-painted the entire thing, removing the splotches, darkened edges, and also the flash shadows. The dark area to the left had to get the same treatment. I matched the tones of the unlit area and darkened doorway in the background, and re-created the entire space. That was the easy part.

Next came repairing the skin and dress areas, and restoring the stuffed toy skunk (Disney's Flower) on the table. Using the clone tool and the paint brush, I was able to re-create an upper arm, parts of two legs, and portions of the dress. Although not all of Flower's white back stripe is visible in the original photo, I added a little of it back to give some separation from the unlit background area. Unfaithful to the original? Maybe, but I think it makes it a better photo. 

Finished restoration

I finished it up by improving the contrast that had faded away over the years. I also got rid of the yellowish color cast, returning it to a true black and white. I was pleased with the way it came out, and so was my friend. We decided on a 5x7 horizontal crop so it could be framed for display. 

Final cropped version

I considered that while yesterday afternoon's rain gave me time to do this instead of yard work, it was also creating conditions for more mold and mildew. Oh well, I guess that's life in the south! (Click on photos to enlarge.)

1 comment:

  1. I have never seen red mold before. Your treatment is fascinating and really a terrific restoration.
    This was a great way to spend a rainy afternoon.
    Happy 4th of July.