Tricky Glass Plate Restoration

19th September 2015
I've blogged before about some of my restoration work, but I thought I'd share with you one that was completed and collected this week, as it was a little different to the ones that usually come in.

Usually, my customers come in with old prints that are scratched, faded, torn and often missing a little bit here and there. They come in all shapes and sizes, black and white, sepia and colour. Occasionally I get a negative or a slide or two (or hundred!) and all these present their own challenges, and I treat each one individually to get what's right for the photograph, and the customer.

A couple of weeks ago a customer came in with one a little different: a glass plate photograph. This photograph, estimated at over a century old, was small, delicate, and heavily damaged. The original print was still there to see, as was the hand colouring applied by the original photographer. The image was printed onto the back of the glass, with the hand embellishments to the front.

The damage, as can be seen below, was quite extensive. It had been dropped at some point and the glass broken in several places. Some of the glass, and therefore the image, was also missing. A previous attempt at repairing the image had involved the use of tape which had also corroded the image. Add to that the usual signs of ageing; discolouration, scratches, blemishes, fading, and you have a photograph that has seen better days. Here it is:

After scanning in the photograph, I started by removing the scratches and the visible damage caused by the broken glass (which also involved re-aligning the parts, as the original, when taped back up, wasn't correctly aligned). Then it was on to the blemishes and fading. Once all that was complete I moved on to re-creating those areas which had been lost when the glass had broken off and the tape had corroded the image. The final stages of restoration were then to get the image back to its former self in respect of strength of detail, tone and colour, removing discolouration and creating a version of the print as it would have looked when new. Rather than creating a new glass block (which is possible using modern acrylics) it was printed as a standard print to be framed in a more durable way to last many more years to come. Oh, and the last part? To enlarge it from its original, palm size to a amazing looking 10x8.

Here's the final version, and below that, a comparison of the two together.

If you have an old photo that you would like restored, why not pop along to my studio in Poynton to see what I can do.