Artist Jane Long has found an inspiring way of bringing old black and white photos back to life.
Using her retouching skills Jane merges vintage photographs with worldly scenarios creating amazingly surreal images that make up her 'Dancing with Costica' series.
Long explains how she came up with the concept of producing these distinctive images.
"The Dancing with Costica series initially came about when I decided to brush up on my retouching skills. After finding the Costica Acsinte Archive on Flickr I became fascinated with the images and their subjects. I wanted to bring them to life. But more than that I wanted to give them a story.
I wanted there to be some ambiguity about the images. Things that are almost real or not quite right. That’s why I like to place them in a slightly surreal context. But I think it should be up to the viewer to determine if the characters in my images are good or bad, light or dark.
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I will probably never know the real stories of these people but in my mind they became characters in tales of my own invention...star crossed lovers, a girl waiting for her a fantasy, innocent children with a little hint of something dark."
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Jane explains the process of how she retouches the photographs.
"The process is much the same for all of the images. First I clean and restore the original image in black and white. Then I adjust contrast and work out how to fix really badly damaged areas, then a general dodge and burn to give the image more depth.
After that I start with the colour, masking out the areas that I need and using multiple layers to create the depth of tone. Some colours are hand painted, some are solid colours and some use other patterns or images to create the colour.
Once I’m happy with the main characters I start looking at suitable backgrounds and complimentary pieces, often shooting these to fit. All of the images have required additional images and/or a new shoot to complete the scene."
How did you self teach yourself?
"That happened over a long period of time. I think I started on Photoshop 3! At that stage it was much less complicated so the learning curve was much more progressive. I spent a lot of time on sites like DeviantArt reading tutorials and on the photography side, sites like SLR Lounge, Phlearn and CreativeLive were great learning resources."
How did you get up and running?
"That's a funny story! I'd been temping at the Graphics Department at BP for two years and they offered the temps part of the annual bonus. (I should add that this is 20-odd years ago!) I decided to leave but only had enough to buy a mac that would do secretarial work, not graphics. They asked me how they could retain my services and when I told them I couldn't afford to set up like that, they gave me an interest free loan! I had it paid off in six months! It was the first time someone had such faith in me and went out on a limb for me and I'm very grateful!"
Do you do all the retouching in photoshop or do you have additional software to help you?
"Most of my work is in Photoshop. I use Lightroom to import and do basic adjustments and selections. I also use a few plugins like Nik's Dfine and Sharpening software and Imagenomic's Portraiture Plugin (although if time permits I'm using frequency separation more and more). Very occasionally I'll use a fractal program to create some random shapes or sparkles! "