Can an original photo be restored? Original photos are made from layers. Old black and white photos were often made from fibre based paper. The base papers themselves would have been made in paper mills and the top coating of light-sensitive chemical based sulphates called “baryta” was then added to produce the photographic paper. Once exposed to light and developed, the positive image is embedded in the “baryta” or emulsion. If this top layer gets damaged there is no way to build up the layer and replace it. You cannot add wax or pen or ink, nothing comes close to the original emulsion. If some of the fibres of the paper have come away, then what? These cannot be replaced either, you cannot simply glue down new ones! Even if it were possible to put back a blank filler into the hole, there is no way to reproduce the grain structure that was there in the original or the subtle tones and shading of the original photo.

Damaged photo and some component parts

Damaged photo and some component parts

The same goes for colour photos, the resin or solid polyester top coat cannot be replaced with anything, It cannot be built up and restored. If there was a way to do this that was commercially available, there would not be so many digital photo restoration companies offering their digital restoration services today!

Sorry, but it is not good news if own a damaged photo and wants the original restored.

Types of photographic paper (image courtesy of WikiPedia)

Types of photographic paper (image courtesy of WikiPedia)

The only salvation may be that working in conjunction with a photo restoration artist, you can get a digital restoration done and then use that to help patch up the original. Of course, this would only work if the paper texture and tone could be matched!

Heavily silvered photos can be restored with a chemical process. A man in Japan has the skills. After reading various translations of the audio the process is very “instinctive” and appears that it is not something that can be learned or written in a manual. Odd how this chap has learned it but cannot pass on what he has learned? Anyway below if the video of him in action removing the silvering from a photo.

Currently, without this miracle of chemical silvering removal, we have to make do with scanning and removing silvering using current restoration techniques.

If you feel you must have your original “preserved” or “conserved” and wish to have a professional conservator take a look you could try finding a conservator in your area using the Conservation Register. Remember this is not restoration in the same fashion as I provide but conservation, to prevent any further degradation of your image.