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Friday, September 12, 2008

morbid makeover

In one of my last photo expeditions to local graveyards around West Springfield, I took pictures of photos of loved ones that were incorporated into the stones themselves. These make me a little sad, and it was even more poignant to see how one photo in particular had deteriorated over the years.

stone photo before

Here's a young male, dates unknown because all the writing is in Hebrew (or perhaps Yiddish; I don't know how I could tell) except for a surname at the bottom. Many times I have looked at my pictures of this photo and thought it might be possible to use the paint bucket tool to fill in the missing areas with a dark shade and see the original photo. It wasn't so simple.

I ended up using the clone tool to pick up areas of shade and apply the tints here and there. Some of what I did was completely arbitrary, so it may be that this is not a real image of the deceased.

stone photo after

Nonetheless, I felt like I had a better idea of how this person had looked. Due to some of my own efforts, it's possible I have distorted the apparent gender of the loved one here, but a photo taken farther back shows what seems to be a young boy. It's kind of rough -- a more finished job might have taken twice as long, and it's getting late.

Anyway, that's what I did after work today.

Originally posted to LJ on 20080728.

ps: Thanks to Susan de Guardiola, in comments, for providing the translation of the tombstone. We now know who this young woman was. May she rest in peace. The impression of maleness was the result of deterioration of the picture and nothing else.


Susan de Guardiola said...

Clearly I should have you work on my Saloncon photos.

Any idea how old the gravestone was? The face looks almost nineteenth century to me, but I don't think they had the ability to put that level of detail on tombstones then.

Mostly what I do in graveyards is pose languidly in costume. Would you ever care to photograph actual beings in a graveyard?

Kip W said...

It's got some age on it, but the only Roman letters on it are "SHOR" down at the bottom. Here it is, at large size. I'd be inclined to say it's from the end of the nineteenth or start of the twentieth century.

I keep thinking I will put a portfolio of my graveyard pics on my flickr page. The ones in the snow and the fog (steam from melting snow) are especially pleasing to me.

I'm not averse to photographing people in a graveyard. I don't like to disrespect the graveyard, which always feels like a place of deep emotion (especially when I'm taking pictures of stones for very young children). I'm no longer as touchy as I used to be about stepping on a grave, but other than that, my respect for their things probably approaches a sort of superstitious reverence.

Susan de Guardiola said...

Hmm, posing in costume might feel disrespectful to you then, though I generally seek out very old gravestones. I don't want to inadvertently offend any living mourners, but I figure the 19thc graves probably don't have anyone coming to see them anymore.

I am perhaps somewhat insensitive to these things because I work in a pathology department, so dead bodies are something of a commodity. Not in a disrespectful way, I don't think, but it's all about the science here and the important things the dead can teach the living.

Susan de Guardiola said...

I have a translation of the Hebrew, via the kind offices of Nomi Burstein! Looks like you got the gender wrong; I feel dumb for not looking at that neckline and identifying it as a high-collared dress. Translation:

Here is buried the woman
Pessa the daughter of Shimon
The wife of Refa'elik* Shor
Twenty-six years old
Died 12 Tamuz
Year 5676** from creation***
May her soul be bound up in the bounds of life****

* A nickname/diminutive of "Raphael"
** The Hebrew date corresponds to 13 July 1916
*** This is the one letter, a lamed, which I guess stands for "l'briat haolam"
**** This is a standard abbreviation on Jewish headstones

How sad for her to die so young. Childbirth, perhaps?

Kip W said...

Childbirth, maybe. Disease, perhaps. Poor Pessa. I wish I could go fix the image on the stone for her.

Thanks for the translation. As I said, she looked male in the deteriorated state, and after I worked on the picture, I didn't know if I'd been wrong before or if I introduced some sort of error in my restoration work.

I've taken other pictures of gravestone photos, but that's the only one I can think of that had been ravaged that much by time.

One of these days I might see if I can do a more polished fix-up. I was kind of fast and loose on this one. Anyway, thanks again for the language assistance.

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