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About Yesterday's Trails



Bruce Andrews

I've been asked how I got interested in photographic restorations and doing what I do.

Where to start? I've always had a passion for photography, at least back to the time I was about 7 or 8. My mother got my first camera at about age 7 and soon realized I had a knack for it with my obsession with composition and lighting. She also soon regretted it because of how fast I would burn through a roll of film and the cost of processing!

Coming from a small town, I remember how things were so different when we went to a bigger town, each time we came things looked a bit different. My grandparents had several cameras and I would see and how my grandfather always seemed to have his camera with him. Every time he or grandmother would capture some images on film and get them processed we would look them over carefully before putting them into the album. I remember thinking how cool it was to look back at the older shots and what it was like back before I entered the picture but also I was kind of disappointed because they weren't always clear and sharp but at least grandpa or grandma could tell us about them.

After they died, I looked through the albums again and realized that unfortunately, there were only a few descriptions written to identify them so here were the Photos... but nothing on most to help remember who or where they were. Through different circumstances, most of the photos were lost but cornering my own father several years before his passing, we sat down to go through every photo in the albums we had left and put a description on everything he could remember! I thought this was one of the most precious gifts he could give me.


Through my travels as a photographer, I would run into places where photos, slides and negatives were damaged, discolored, dirty and discarded because people either didn't want them anymore, didn't know anything about them or thought they were salvageable because of the degree of damage. Remembering how many of my own family's photos disappeared or were destroyed, It always pained me to see this because I would usually think that at least they meant enough to the photographer to try and capture the image, and these were someone's memories and once in a lifetime images that couldn't be recreated. To me, they weren't so much a photograph as they were a magical portal into a time before that couldn't be exactly repeated.

I watched and studied several photo restorers who would touch-up prints and make them look great but I thought how great that would be if you could do that not with the prints, but the original negative? Then, instead of having just one cleaned up print, you could provide unlimited prints just the way the photographer originally saw it through the viewfinder!

With the advent of digital resources, through my own exploration and experimentation, I started to see what results could be obtained with digital restoration on the negatives. Trial and error revealed what not to do but as I went along I developed a skill at restoration as well as a recipe to remove a majority of dirt and the excess silver that forms on the emulsion, especially glass plates. The goal of course is as clean a negative or slide as I could get. I wanted antique images not antique dirt.

So with the first step done, more cleaning & adjusting is then done digitally to present the image as cleanly as possible. Sometimes, due to advanced deterioration or other conditions inherent in the image itself, it isn't possible to restore it to a like-new image but I like to get it as close as possible for the historical aspect.

This passion has more-or-less left my camera in the bag as restoration is a time consuming process. Ultimately, it is the most rewarding for me. There are many photographic artists out today that can produce far more beautiful images than myself and I love seeing their artistry.

But for me, being able to restore and preserve the fantastic and simple images of our history brings me the most satisfaction.

I hope that looking through the images on this website can bring that satisfaction and good memories to you as well... and maybe give you something you didn't know!