Thursday, November 11, 2010


     I've been using Photoshop for more than 20 years now, but I am mostly self-taught. The program is so vast that I doubt that anyone, even the creators, know every single thing that can be done with the program.
     In 1999 I had taken a class in digital photo retouching using Photoshop. It was being offered free at a huge photo studio, with the goal of finding about 10 people they could hire to retouch digital photos, mostly portraits. I passed the course, as did several others in the class, but for some unknown reason, the studio went out of business within a few weeks, so no one was ever hired.

     My local community college allows senior citizens to take credited classes for free, as long as the class is not filled. One can audit the course or take it for credit. I always take classes for credit. I'm not attempting to earn another degree, but I know I will put more effort into the class if I will be graded, and therefore, I will get more out of it. 
     Last spring I took a class in Adobe Illustrator. About ten years ago, I had purchased an older version of the program on eBay, but it is so different from Photoshop that I never quite figured out how to use it.  
     This semester, I'm taking Photoshop with an updated version of the program. I already knew a lot, but I am learning new tricks all the time.

     One recent class project was to find an old, damaged photo to retouch. 
     Above you will see a photo of my grandmother Selma and her sister, my great-aunt Millie. (Click photo for a larger view.) I am guessing this photo was taken around around 1898.

     This is what my mother told me about my grandmother and her family:
     Both of my mother's grandparents were of German decent. I'm not sure if they had been born in Germany or in the U.S. They lived in Spring Garden, a residential section on the North Side area of Pittsburgh.
     My grandmother's mother, my great-grandmother, died in childbirth when Millie was born. As an adult, Millie married and had two daughters. My mother says she was often depressed or "disturbed" and would often leave her husband and live with her sister's family for a few days or weeks. When my mother died, one of Millie's daughters asked if I had any family photos with Aunt Millie in them. Apparently on one particularly disturbed day, Millie had burned all of her family photos.
     Not long after his wife died, my great-grandfather remarried. His second wife had a son. I think his name was Frederick, but he had a great tenor voice, so, as an adult, everyone called him Tenor. He was very tall, about 6'7". When he died, a special coffin had to be built for him.
     One day when Tenor was a toddler, his mother asked a neighbor to watch her son. She left and never returned.  
     My grandmother Selma helped to raise her sister and brother and did much of the housework for my great-grandfather. When she was about 12, her father took her out of school and sent her to work. She usually had live-in jobs taking care of children. For a while she worked for people who lived above their small grocery store. She cared for the children and did housework. Later she worked at a boarding house, helping with cooking, cleaning and laundry.
     Sunday was usually Selma's day off. She would walk several miles to her father's home so she wouldn't have to spend money on a streetcar fare. As soon as she arrived, her father would hold out his hand for her meager wages. After a while, she stopped going home so she could save what she earned to replace her worn and too-small winter coat.
     In her teens, she met William, an immigrant from Sweden, at the boarding house where she worked. The woman who owned the boarding house helped Selma and William elope in 1908. My grandmother was only 16. William was in his 20s. They took a train from Pittsburgh to Jamestown, New York to be married. William worked for American Bridge. I'm not exactly sure what he did, but he might have been a supervisor. My mother said he was often called out at all hours to resolve problems.
     They had four daughters, Selma (called Sis), my mother Grace, Elsie, and Jeanne, and remained happily married until my grandfather died of pneumonia in the 1940s. That was during WWII. Apparently he might have been saved with penicillin, but all of that medication had been directed toward the military. He was in his 50s when he died. My grandmother Selma took on part-time jobs for many years. She often cared for sick or disabled people in their homes. For a while she lived and worked at what we then referred to an an "old folks' home." In her later years she lived with my parents. Her daughters provided her with 13 grandchildren, nine boys and 4 girls. In her late 60's she suffered from Alzheimer's and had a stroke. She died in her early 70's in 1965.
     My mother was the second oldest daughter and the last surviving sister. She died in 2009 at the age of 95.

     Below find one of my class projects, the retouching and spot coloring of the above photo. I will be passing these photos, the original and several versions of the retouch, to Millie's daughters.
     (Click on images for larger views.)