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Uncurl Photos
Old 01-08-2015, 06:53 PM   #1
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Uncurl Photos

Aunt W. passed away this summer at age 92. Two years ago, knowing that I'd be the only one who would be interested, she sent a large box, full to the top with my mom's photo collection. Mom passed away in 1995. She was an inveterate photographer, and had saved the very old family pictures, as well as the records of her own younger life, and those of myself and my own family.

From tintypes going back to the early 1860's, to snapshots taken on her Baby Brownie 620, there are about 1,000+ pictures. Surprisingly, except for some early 1900's photos that were pasted face to face in albums, and somewhat degraded, almost all of the photos are in very good condition, and quite sharp.

So, here's the problem. Almost all of the shiny snapshots are "curled"... into a circle. When flattened, to view, they do not crack or degrade.

I'd like to sort them, by approximate year, and by the different branches of the family, (going back four generations), and send them to the younger generations. The pictures can be scanned, but after spending three days scanning a few hundred, and crashing the hard drive, I have no inclination to do that again.

The first thing I tried was going to the internet for some way to flatten the pictures. You can't imagine.... to do one picture, a 12 step process, involving humidifying, steaming, blotting, special paper etc... No way...

I have tried flattening between the pages of books... for a month, steaming them in a hot shower on towels, then pressing between glass. I also had five large empty picture albums, where I put the photos into the glassine slots...
Nothing worked... they all curl up. (The tintypes do stay flat).

This is not a crisis. As with most family photos, no one is really interested in spending hours looking at their own life history, never mind those of relatives they never knew, but over the past three days, DW and I have spent some very pleasant hours going through these rolled up 3x5 and smaller pics. Since we've been friends since age 8, much in common... old friends, old places from summer camps, to old hangouts, schools, and houses and hundreds of locations that measured our lives over the past 70 years.

I am not optimistic about resolving this, but thought to ask our ER creative experts for suggestions. Am willing to spend few hours "fixing", but not important enough to spend a lot of money or time.

(have probably posted this before, but one of my favorites... Tom and Tillie, with my mom in the sidecar... Mom was about 6 months old... in Fall 1911.)
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File Type: jpg Tom and Matilda 8.4 x 11.jpg (89.5 KB, 25 views)
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Old 01-08-2015, 07:12 PM   #2
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I love seeing old pictures of relatives when they are younger -- and you have a great image there that's well worth preserving.

Regarding uncurling, have you looked at something like the D-roller: https://www.itsupplies.com/D-Roller-Paper-De-Curler . It seems to work well for modern inkjet papers but I don't how well it would work for old prints. It would probably be very easy to make your own un-curler along the same lines too.
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Old 01-08-2015, 07:27 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imoldernu View Post
... As with most family photos, no one is really interested in spending hours looking at their own life history, never mind those of relatives they never knew...

... The pictures can be scanned, but after spending three days scanning a few hundred, and crashing the hard drive, I have no inclination to do that again...
They may not be interested now, but when they get older they will.

I do not know how to help with the uncurling, but would try the scanning again, and use an auto-mirrored drive this time for fail-safe redundancy. I just saw on the Web a driveless 2-bay RAID enclosure for $70. Add a couple of new HD's of 1 TB at $49/each, and you have storage capacities for millions of photos.

Then, you can upload them on to one of the many Web sites for family members to view. They may not appreciate it now, but they will. Or burn them into a CD and send to them as Christmas gifts.
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Old 01-08-2015, 08:17 PM   #4
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I have dealt with this exact situation before. What worked for me was to take a storage bin with a lid. Put a little water in the bottom and lay the photos on a rack in the bin then put the lid on for a few days. The pictures did uncurl for the most part and I was able to scan them then. It is a time consuming process but hey what else do we have around here but time
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Old 01-08-2015, 08:29 PM   #5
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I've not tried it, but I would be tempted to wrap the curled photos around a series of cylinders of gradually increasing diameter. Gentle application of moisture or warmth during their stay on each cylinder might help. Tedious, yes, perhaps only worth doing for the very best of the photos.
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Old 01-09-2015, 09:49 AM   #6
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Thank you all for the suggestions.
We've decided to go through the pics, and decide on which ones to save and scan. Just too overwhelming to take on the task of doing them all. Have spent about five hours just going thru them for the first time.
Brings back so many memories... Just a few here.
Grandma and my mom Jessie on left, with her sisters
My dad's Lorraine Textile Mill softball group... my guess about 1935.
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File Type: jpg 1919 Jessie Alice Mom and Lil.jpg (469.0 KB, 16 views)
File Type: jpg Dad's Mill Softball circa 1935.jpg (395.5 KB, 16 views)
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Old 01-09-2015, 11:49 AM   #7
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The advantage of scanning is that you can then use digital enhancement (but save the original scan first). This gives one another pastime.

I had an acquaintance who made money retouching old photos that people wanted to restore. This was 30+ years ago, before digital editing was available. So, people do treasure old family portraits.
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Old 01-09-2015, 07:54 PM   #8
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The advantage of scanning is that you can then use digital enhancement (but save the original scan first). This gives one another pastime.

I had an acquaintance who made money retouching old photos that people wanted to restore. This was 30+ years ago, before digital editing was available. So, people do treasure old family portraits.
I have done some of this and depending on the photo it is not that difficult. It depends on the amount and types of correcting needed. A good book on the topic is Digital Restoration From Start to Finish.

Low contrast like that in imoldernu's post is easy to fix, often color shift is easy, other times not so easy.

This is a "rush job" I did after a much-loved relative passed. I didn't have the time to do a very good job of it but they were very pleased with the result. He was a civilian technician for the Navy and worked on torpedo guidance systems and in the picture he's leaving a submarine.
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File Type: jpg restoration-2.jpg (103.6 KB, 12 views)
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