March 22, 2019

The Art of Photo Restoration

The Art of Photo Restoration

There's a couple essential facts about me:

  • I'm somewhat obsessed with Art Tatum,
  • I like to buy books online when I've had enough to drink.

Over a year ago, I found a book listed on Amazon simply titled Art Tatum that I couldn't find much info about elsewhere. It was only about $10 from what I recall, so I went ahead and ordered it.

Art Tatum: A Guide to His Recorded Music

Once the book arrived, I saw it was subtitled A Guide to His Recorded Music and I flipped though it and found that's what it entirely was: a giant list of every single recording Art Tatum had ever made. Pretty cool, I thought, and I tossed the book in one of my bins.

Some amount of months later, I was digging through my book bins looking for something I wanted to reference for a whitepaper I was working on, and I saw the book again, picked it up, flipped through it, and found that at the back, there's a musician index that lists to the recordings by who Art was playing with.

"Interesting," I thought aloud, annoying my sister by shoving the book in her face, "I didn't know he played with Tal Farlow."

"Mmm, yeah, interesting," she said, not even glancing at the book, responding even though we both knew she had know idea who Tal Farlow was. "Pretty cool."

"He played with Les Paul! Did you know Les Paul started on the piano but gave up and switched to guitar after trying to do an Art Tatum run?" (It was a descending Eb minor pentatonic scale — but not a glissando.)

"Oh, that's cool. Pretty cool," she said.

Then I saw the name that filled with joy: Billie Holiday.

"There's recordings of Art Tatum, my favorite pianist, and Billie Holiday, my favorite singer? Those must be my favorite recordings. I must listen to them."

"Yeah," said my sister, as I was still talking aloud.

There are five listed recordings of Art Tatum performing with Billie Holiday, from two performances. The first three are recordings of Do Nothin' Till You Here from Me, I Love My Man (Billie's Blues), and I'll Get By recorded at the Esquire All-Store Concert from the Metropolitan Opera House on January 18, 1944. (From further research, it's possible that the date was actually the 13th.)

The other two recordings are of Fine and Mellow and All of Me from a June 25, 1944 radio broadcast titled "New World A Coming" (program 17) on WMCA.

After some quick searching, I found one of the recordings and was content with that for a little while.

A couple of months later — a couple of months ago — I tried to look for more of the recordings, and when I searched for the other two from the first performance, I was overjoyed that the Esquire All-Star Concert in 1944 had easily-accessible recordings, and is a fairly famous jazz performance (and was somewhat well-documented, photographically), what with Roy Eldridge, Jack Teagarden, Coleman Hawkins, Louis Armstrong, Oscar Pettiford, and more. I still have to buy the full album on vinyl, but I got caught up with the photos of the performance.

"There are some photos of Art Tatum with Billie Holiday!" I shouted.

"Oh, that's pretty cool," said my sister, as I am always annoying her with Art Tatum and Billie Holiday stuff.

The photo I found that I liked the most was a picture of a slightly scratched and somewhat dirty black-and-white, mildly light-damaged photograph — the highest resolution version I could find was hosted on DeviantArt, of all places.

A week later, I decided that'd I'd colorize and restore the photo. And I did.

(This isn't the "final result" — there were some vibrance and contrast adjustments in a print-prepared version.)

This isn't meant to be a tutorial or anything like that (and there are some imperfections), so I'm not going to get into how this was done. I spent a little bit of time of this during the last couple of months, and most of the time was researching the flags in the background.

The final product turned out, as my sister might say, "pretty cool." There's some glare in this pic, but I don't care. 8)

I did use Let's Enhance to upsample and overlaid that result with a vectorized version and had it printed on canvas for my apartment.