Saturday, April 2, 2016

Portrait retouching in Sydney

When I was a young man in Sydney, I often used to catch a suburban train at an underground station in the city named Wynyard.

The station had two platforms, which could be entered from several outside places. But every aspect of this station was uniformly ugly.

To access staircases leading down to the platforms, people trudged along ramps packed with stalls of vendors.

Even the entrance located in a neighboring park was so dull that it might have been an underground toilet.

The main reason I'm raving on about this uninteresting Sydney train station is because I was reminded recently of a particular kind of boutique that had become popular in this setting. Merchants proposed retouching services for old damaged photographs. As a naive child, I had been impressed by the magical skills of the firms that carried out this retouching, whose results were demonstrated proudly in their boutique windows. First, we were shown a severely-torn fragment of an old damaged photo. Then we admired the magic outcome of asking the specialists to repair the damages.

I would have liked to include some graphical specimens in this blog post, to illustrate the theme that I'm presenting, but I was incapable of finding the kind of stuff I had in mind.

For ages, I had never actually met up with anybody who called upon this type of retouching service. Then suddenly, when I was least expecting to encounter this kind of old-fashioned stuff, I was invited to witness such a specimen in the village of Pont-en-Royans, just down the road from Gamone. The most amazing aspect of the event was that this shoddy retouching, giving rise to a totally fake image, had in fact been performed, by chance, in my native Australia... which gave me the impression that this abominable approach to "retouching" was almost certainly an Aussie specialty. I had just met up with a new resident of the French village: an Australian lady whose surname coincided with that of a famous Australian explorer. I naturally asked the lady if she happened to be related to the famous explorer, whose story was part of our history lessons when I was a school kid in Grafton. The lady replied: "Yes, of course, he's an ancestor of mine. Step inside and I'll show you his portrait." Well, inside the lady's house, in the heart of the village, I was shocked to come upon a framed color portrait that was so terribly kitsch that it looked as if it had just emerged from a scruffy retouching boutique in the Wynyard ramp.

A few years later, I had a second encounter of a similar kind,... once again, from an Australian lady. In the context of my family-history research that was giving rise to A Little Bit of Irish, I was excited to learn by e-mail that a remote relative (?) in Australia was prepared to send me a copy of a photo of one of our old-time bushranger folk. When it arrived, I was saddened to find that, once again, I was faced with a kitsch mess from a Wynyard photo shop. I trashed it instantly.

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