Analog Enhancements: Photo Editing in the Pre-Digital Age

Sequence of photographs of Leonard Dowdy and Warner Stenquist with wax pencil marks indicating selection and enlargement decisions.

Sequence of photographs of Leonard Dowdy and Warner Stenquist with wax pencil marks indicating selection and enlargement decisions.

February 27, 2015

The photograph collection in the Archives at Perkins is peppered with publishing notes and photographic manipulations that highlight tools and tricks seldom used in the digital age. These enhancements would have preceded publication or reproduction of an image. The trail of evidence left behind includes: selection and layout notes, mockups, details about scale, crop marks, airbrushing to mask backgrounds, and overlays and collage from carefully cutout objects or people.

The following images highlight retouching (hand-drawn photo enhancements with pen and ink) that I found especially clever. Each image below is followed by a close-up of the area circled in red.

Nature Study, Perkins Institution in South Boston, circa 1904.

Nature Study, Perkins Institution in South Boston, circa 1904.


Framed portrait obscured by glare on the glass. Features of the hair and face drawn back in.

Framed portrait obscured by glare on the glass. Features of the hair and face drawn back in.


Primary boys' math class, circa 1929.

Primary boys' math class, circa 1929.

American flag with starts and stripes outlined and darkened with pen. Also the intersection of the wall and ceiling and contours of the support beam are outlined.

American flag with starts and stripes outlined and darkened with pen. Also the intersection of the wall and ceiling and contours of the support beam are outlined.


Kindergarten for the Blind, Jamaica Plain, circa 1904.

Kindergarten for the Blind, Jamaica Plain, circa 1904.


Details of lace-work in clothing brought out with pen.

Details of lace-work in clothing brought out with pen.


Clothing detail and shadows around arm drawn over with pen.

Clothing detail and shadows around arm drawn over with pen.