Thursday, November 6, 2008

To Restore or Not to Restore?

For your perusal: a low-rez scan of a rather tattered magazine cover that I've applied my meager Photoshop skills to reviving. Aside from removing some of the more obvious stains I've warmed up the pallette, perhaps beyond what it looked like as it would have fresh on the newsstand. It wouldn't have been hard to completely bleach out the background of any spots but I decided enough was enough.

And that's the question I have for you. Would you rather see original covers in all their original stained and torn glory, or cleaned up to digital perfection? I admit that I can't keep from fixing up the most egregious damage but at some point I begin to wonder if something is lost. There are comic book sites where the scans of 50 year old pages are bleached not only of their age, but of their origins.

On the other hand, take a look at my pal TJ's handiwork below. The scan of dingy issue is as close as I'll ever come to owning it but what TJ has done makes me feel I am seeing the image as it may have appeared on canvas. Stolen Sweets was among the magazine Bolles worked for that used cheap printing methods and sometimes only printed in three colors. As far as I know there are no surviving paintings from this title so TJ's efforts are as close as we are going to get.


Li-An said...

It's always nice to see a restored picture: you can focus on the painting.

idle. said...

I do enjoy both. Me, I'd go for something in between. Especially on those last two images. The first seems a bit dull and lacking contrast but that last one is somehow pushed too far. It looks too much like digital restoration. The pictures that I enjoy the most are the ones that give me a way to tell their age and still retain something of their original quality.

Still, thanks for sharing all these great paiting by Bolles. I've been an ardent follower of your flickr-stream back when it was still alive and kicking. Imaging my joy when I found out that you restarted it here via blogger. ^_^

Jack R said...

Hi Li-an & idle,
Thanks for your feedback. I'll try to find a happy medium with restorations, although the super perfect fix-ups that TJ has provided me are awfully attractive, especially given that
the colors on Bolles' paintings are a lot more vibrant than how how they appear in print. In a future post I'll upload original paintings next to the printed covers so you can compare for yourself.
Idle, I'm glad you're here but I'm curious how you found out about the Bolles blog. Leif Peng has been a big help but I'm not sure how else to get the word out.

PIGNOUF said...

Bonjour Jack R
Je pense qu'il ne faut pas se priver des technologies que nous possédons.
Il est quand même souhaitable de rester raisonnable; ok pour réparer et recoloriser très légèrement !
Votre blog est super !
A bientôt...:)

Mariana said...

Must. Steal! That's so gorgeous.

Jack R said...

Go for it, Mariana! I've got a couple covers that remind me of the Anna May Wong. Once I dig them up I'll post them.

mk4 said...

Hi, Jack:

as you know, I've posted quite a few of my my Bolles Film Funs on (along with you!) and as an advertising art director proficient in Photoshop, I find it mandatory to clean them up...not because I can, but because I feel I must. Years of dirt, tears and stains due to "feelthy" handling of these once taboo skin mags have indeed taken their toll and I feel it detracts from their beauty. Museums do it all the time. For example, many of the world's great masterpieces... Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel and "Pieta" come to mind...have been restored due to years of accumulated grime...or the madman's hammer. Some in the art community may quarrel over the restoration techniques themselves (and some restored paintings have been re-restored recently thanks to improved techniques) but nearly all agree that they should be brought back to their former glory. The same with classic films (witness the recent miraculous restoration of the silent classic "Metropolis" by the Berlin Film Museum) and recorded sound (classic jazz on 78s being remastered to eliminate clicks, pops and surface noise). Since I am somewhat involved in film and music preservation as well as "rescuing" covers of Film Fun and the old "Life" please count me in as 100% in favor of cleaning away the years of dirt, stains, grime, owner's signatures, rips and tears that I feel detract from the artist's original intentions for this colorful cover art.

Mark Forer

Jack R said...

Hi Mark,
That's an interesting comparison and you've sold me. When you think about it physical restoration can be just as controversial as digital, and the debates about remaining true to the original are not so different in either case. So do I have permission to send you a few of my more challenging covers? :)

Li-An said...

To answer to your first question: it's Leifpeng who gave the information on his Flickr.
I think you could show the two pictures: before working on it and the result you get.

marco pedrana said...

i think that the original version is more practical.
but also, when you scan an image from a print, you have both the mediations of the scanning procedure and of the printing one (which is poorer than the original art): so i don't see one more tweaking to do real damage to the picture :)

darwination said...

Thank you for your blog, I am enjoying it very much. I absolutely prefer the restored versions and also concur that the restoration can be taken a bit too far by some of the poster printers out there. The time you spend on these images is well worth it in my opinion! Keep up the good work.