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A Family Portrait?

Family Group
Family Group, originally uploaded by anyjazz65
Thirty-eight people (counting the baby at the far left.) Is it a family? Is it a church group? What do you think?

This is the original as it looked before a little photoshop trickery.

And a small one.

The woman on the far left is probably holding a wee one but seems just out of the frame. There are twelve women in just this crop.

Seven men.
The boy on the far left seems to be hanging onto the coat tail of the taller man. He also seems to be whistling or perhaps just speaking.

Three women.
Look at the woman, third from the right. Her high cheekbones, her Hollywood eyes. Bo Derek?

The Flickr Comments:

view profile ed ed says: another masterwork, anyjazz...i'll have to have a long look at this. how do you make such a clean picture from such a faded one, if it's not a trade secret...?

view profile anyjazz65 says: Thanks ed ed. Glad you like it.

Start with high res scans, 600 dpi or better. This one is only 600dpi. Then pull it out little by little in layers in photoshop. This one has just three layers. I gave it maximum adjustment in "levels" on the bottom layer. Layer two was a grayscale version with the contrast tweaked at 59% transparency. Then finished it off (layer three) hand brushing some of the faded details with the burn tool set at 8%. I took out only a few marks where they were on faces using the clone tool, pixel by pixel. I put layer three on top at about 50% transparency. There are photoshop experts who are far and away better at this than I am. I have been fiddling with photoshop since 1994 and I'm just learning.

view profile ed ed says: well you may be just fiddling but you're like paganini to me..thanks for the explanation although i confess to feeling dumb...i haven't got photoshop and i wouldn't know a dpi if it got up and smacked me in the lens. i had been wondering about photoshop and you've shown with these pictures that it can work miracles in skilled hands. i know there are two versions: expensive/comprehensive/professional and cheap/basic/amateur. do you have any opinion about the basic version??

view profile anyjazz65 says: HA! I know, all that sounds like computer jargon to someone who hasn't worked with it. Sorry.

Basically I tweaked three versions of the same photo in a high resolution scan, each tuning something different. Then I piled them up and made the top two layers semi-transparent so they would contribute to the total image.

By all means, get the cheap version and use it until you feel limited. Then expand.

view profile jim270 says: Great editing. I know it took a while to get it right.

view profile anyjazz65 says: Hey thanks!

I worked on it about three hours I guess off and on. This was an easy one actually. Very few mars and tears. And the contrast was not completely lost.

view profile A. Davey says: I am guessing this is a photo of a school or orphanage. What is puzzling is the lack of adults, particularly older adults. That is what makes me think it is not a family or a church group.

But, even if the subjects were students or orphans, wouldn't people who more obviously look like teachers or administrators be in the photo?

This is wild speculation, but the subjects could belong to the youngest generation(s) of a large, established family.

view profile avleent says: Interesting how there are so many women, girls and young boys, but it looks like there's only 2 full-grown men...and they seem quite young as well.

Its amazing how well you've restored this photo. Where did you find it?

view profile annette62 says: some weird religious cult thing?

view profile ed ed says: it's gripping this picture, to return to. you did a brilliant job in saving it. i keep trying to find the clue which will explain it, but there probably isn't an easy one. it could be the subject of some investigatory documentary or something, but then i guess it already is...

Continued in the next column...

Mom got to wear the dress

It's not hard to pick out the onery kid. Just to the right of the woman in the plaid dress stands a tow-headed boy (probably) who couldn't be trusted to stand still with the rest of the boys.

Dad and boys.
The boys all join by hanging on the shoulder of the next in line.

Continued from the left column.....

view profile anyjazz65 says:
@A. Davey: Yes, I have pictures of church groups and they nearly always have one or two holding Bibles, there are always lots of elders and it is usually shot in front of their church entrance. We thought students and/or orphans too but rejected that idea for the same reasons, too many adults, not enough children. And no obvious “teachers” standing in a group or holding books.

We are leaning toward a “younger” generation portrait too. There just doesn’t seem to be anyone old enough to be parents of so many children. There are some facial resemblances here and there and a couple or three of the women are dressed in the same print fabric. There are a few other observations that further help/confuse speculation:

1) Although they seem to be arranged mostly in groups, there is one boy standing off to the left by himself.

2) All of the males except the boy in the play smock, have dress jackets on.

3) Most of the older women are dressed in solid dark colors except one in a bright plaid dress (center) and one in a lighter color (seated, right)

4) One woman is wearing an apron.

5) There are perhaps three hats hanging on the wall and perhaps one overcoat far right, but what are the buckets? Lunch pails?

6) There is a door on the right, but perhaps that is the main entrance on the left. The children seem to be arranged on steps.

7) On the left, behind everyone there is a bench holding what appears to be hats.

8) Is that a tree stump in the foreground, right? The little blurs upper left are probably tree leaves.

9) Through the left window, another window at the back of the building can be seen.

10) The two tallest men seem to be engaged in some kind of activity. The one on the right has his right hand at the other’s jacket pocket. The one on the left has his left hand draped at the other’s neck. (There is a dark mark there that partially obscures it.)

@ avleent: Except for the baby, none of them seem to be old enough to be parents of any of the others. Thanks, there was just enough left to work with. I found it at a junk shop in central Oklahoma.

@Annette62: Ha! That was my first idea too but my wife says they don’t seem somber enough for that.

@ed ed: Thanks again. You are right. The more I look at it, the more I see. Some of these old photographs with no known provenance are really fascinating. The mystery and the history draw the observer into them.

view profile ed ed says: another curiosity is how harmoniously the grouping has been arranged. strange that one boy is on his own in the doorway on the left, however... i don't know why but it seems more institutional than family to me. i wonder where they come from?

view profile anyjazz65 says: Right again ed ed. It seems more friendly organization than family. The boys on the right are leaning playfully on each other, but probably not how brothers would. The boy in the left group is playfully hanging on to the tall one’s coat tail. Two standing women to the right of the post have their arms linked, as does two on the left. Two standing girls on the left are holding hands. One seated girl on the right has her hand on the shoulder of the standing girl in front of her. And that girl (handkerchief in waistband) seems to have a dress almost identical to the one just to the left (who has a handkerchief in her right hand). Yet with all these comparisons, the photograph just doesn’t seem to have a “family” feel to it. But, I’ve been wrong before, today even…

view profile ed ed says: do you think they might be russian?
don't really know why i thought the first extract you've blown up above, don't you think the woman on our right and the tall girl three to her right look very similar (perhaps sharing a resemblance with the apron woman too?)

view profile anyjazz65 says: I really can't pin down the nationality. The clothing is pretty much early midwestern USA however and quite a variety of it too. Not to say the styles might have been other places too.

You may be right about the resemblances too. Those three are close! I looked around face next to face as I was working with it and found several possibilities. One can only go from hairline, face shape, build, pose and coloring mainly. Using the same fabric in two dresses is a pretty good sign too. Other signs can be: An older brother will lean on the younger, sisters will hold hands, children are posed next to parents. But there is little of any of that here.

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