Old photographs have always been a passion of mine. I find I lose myself when I look at photos of earlier eras. While creating the work for the Grand Ball series, I've had to spend a lot of time looking through old archives. United States law says that virtually all photographs published before January 1923 are now in the public domain. In simpler terms they are free to use.
Last year I did a lot of work on the Spirits of the Dead series, which looked at the surrealistic world of ghosts and spirits and how they saw the physical and spiritual world around them. My hypothesis was that ghosts see the universe in technicolor, not black and white. What is shades of gray for us, is often bright and shining for them. The whole series was based on this idea.
But during my time working on Spirits of the Dead, I never explored ghosts as we see them. So I decided to try and use old photographs of people which are remastered in the digital studio and then place them into the real world.
The image at the top of the page "Ophelia" was taken from an opera singer in costume taken around 1883.
The process is difficult because the original photo has to be resized, cleaned up and prepared before it can be inserted into its new home. You can see above what the original photo looked like.
Once that photo is prepared, then I switched over to my own photo archives and chose an image I took in Philadelphia a few years back as the suitable frame for Ophelia to be transitioned into.
This image is then prepared also before Ophelia is added. Once that is completed then she can be moved into the new image.
In the first phase, the colors are matched to a neutral sepia tone so that Ophelia and the landscape match. Next comes the hard part. Ophelia has to be cleaned up so that she looks natural to the scene. She can't look like she was just plunked down in the middle. Once that is completed she can now be re-tinted.
Since the original image was of course in black and white, I had to do some creative coloration, choosing a pale blue for the dress and greens and reds for what I think was a boa of fresh flowers around her. I left her arms and face the original sepia tones.
Now the last stage is to bring back some color to the whole image and to turn Ophelia into a ghost.
This is done by going back to the original image taken in Philadelphia and overlaying it on the first image then merging the layers together so that some of the color shows and some of the sepia show and Ophelia becomes ghostly. A last retouching is done. Clouds were added to the one spot in the upper right that was exposed to the sky and the whole image was given some pretty stark contrast. The end result with borders and names is "Ophelia"
In the end I was quite pleased with the results of this first try, enough so that I want to work it into a series of its own over the coming months.
As always comments and questions are welcome. I will post further updates as the art is created.
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