Restoration of Panoramic Photos
Tom Skrivan of Photo Repair Shop
Over the years the MacArthur Memorial has received a number of panoramic photos from the World War I era. Being close to one hundred years old, the majority of these images were hard and brittle upon reception; many of them badly deteriorated. Some of the images are over four feet long, but unfortunately had been stored by their original owners in a rolled up condition. Flattening them caused them to crease and break, and because preservation methods were expensive and not always guaranteed to come out with the best results, the images were unable to be seen much less displayed. The Archives placed them in a stabilized, acid free, temperature and humidity controlled environment and catalogued them for what they were, but they rarely saw the light of day. It was always a shame that such great examples of panoramic photography had to be kept hidden.
Panoramic photography has been around almost as long as photography has. By definition, a panoramic photo captures an image greater than or equal to the human eye's field of view. This is roughly about 160 by 75 degrees. The first patent for a camera intended to capture panoramic images was filed in Austria by Joseph Puchberger in 1843. Puchberger’s camera was a hand cranked mechanism that could produce a twenty-four inch long daguerreotype.It wasn’t until the invention of flexible film in 1888, however, that panoramic photography became popular and a large assortment of panoramic cameras became available.
Two kinds of panoramic cameras flooded the market around the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries.These were the swing lens and full 360 degree rotation panoramic cameras. Swing lens cameras are just that; the lens rotates and the film is stationary. They were easy to use requiring no tripod and using rolls of film. Swing lens cameras were mass produced and popular with the public creating small, easy to store panoramic photos. Full rotation or Cirkut Cameras were used by professional photographers and could produce images up to twenty feet long.
Both the film and lens rotated to capture large vistas, and their photos have a slight distortion caused by the differences in distance between the lens and the subject due to rotation. The images in the MacArthur Memorial are the large type taken by Cirkut Cameras.
Home Coming of American Soldiers - May 20th, 1919 - Orizaba Docking at Newport News, VA
With the advent of digital technology it became possible to restore the original images of our panoramic photo collection without subjecting the originals to a possibly destructive restoration project. A search was conducted to find someone capable of doing this type of computerized photo restoration. Tom Skrivan, who owns the Photo Repair Shop in Valencia, CA, (*) is a specialist in this field of digital manipulation and he was chosen to restore five images that were in need of repair.
The results of Mr. Skrivan's work were unbelievable. Images cracked, creased, stained and torn were restored to pristine beauty. Digital files were made and new prints created. Once again, images that had been rolled up and unseen for nearly a century were alive and vibrant. A great debt is owed to Mr. Skrivan's professionalism in the successful completion of this restoration project.
(*) since relocated to Stateline, NV
Just Back from France - April 27th 1919 - Battery C Field Artillery