My friend, Nadya, has unwittingly helped me on my quest to prove the genealogy of digital photo restoration! There’s no denying that photography is the top of the tree, the ground zero of digital restoration; after all, the image had to be taken first, right? That’s undisputed. From there it goes awry. People assume, for some reason, that digital restoration is something that goes hand in hand with photography; that being a photographer makes you able to do digital photo restoration….but…why? The only thing they have in common is that the photo, as previously mentioned, was taken in the first place! If the photographer has experience with photo editing software, such as Photoshop, there’s a better chance they’ll be competent at restoration., but that’s still not a given.

I’ve had a theory for some time now that neither photography, nor expertise in Photoshop, guarantee you success in photo restoration. There’s a certain something else that’s present in all the really great restoration experts, and that’s an artistic eye. I’m not saying photographers don’t have an artistic eye, but I’m talking about a certain kind of artistic eye, the kind traditional artists have. The ability to know when something isn’t right about a composition, a face, the placement of the eye, more than a passing familiarity with forensic anatomy…the wrist bones connected to the arm bone sort of knowledge. Now, I’m pretty good at this photo restoration thing, but my photography skills? I don’t have any. I think I could learn, maybe even be good, but right out of the box? I pretty much suck.

If anyone’s seen Nadya Neklioudova’s artwork, they automatically know she’s got that sort of artistic eye. Her wildlife art is amazing and there’s nary a wonky eye to be seen! She knows what bone another bone is connected to! Seriously, take a look at this! This is one of my favorite’s (along with the Koala Bears…and that one of the zebra’s…and…). We’re talking major talent, here!

When I saw examples of her restoration work, I was astounded! I usually refrain from saying much when I see digital restoration because I see ways it could be better and the person doing the work hasn’t asked for my opinion. I might say something about a part I think was done well, but I’m not going to gush over something if I don’t feel it was exceptional. When I saw saw Nadya’s restoration work, I gushed. I gushed all over the place! She’s good, really good. The kind of good that inspires me and makes me think there’s hope out there that digital photo restoration will be one day seen as an art form in it’s own right, not just a hobby or something anyone with editing software can do. Nadya also happens to be a great photographer, but I believe, rather than the photography making her a great restoration artist, it’s the art which makes the restoration and the photography great.

Why do I think this is so good? She brought put the detail, beautifully, yet kept it subtle. It looks like the original picture, only 20/30 years ago. Period. She didn’t try to make it new. It’s gorgeous. Nadya understands shadow and light and the power of a light hand. In all the photo restoration work I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot, it’s my opinion that there are only three truly great digital photo restoration artists, and I mean that in the truest sense of the word, in the world today. One is Nadya Neklioudova.

I’m still working on my digital photo restoration family tree, but I’m pretty sure that great-grandpa Photographer was really just an uncle and Traditional Artist was the real direct ancestor…

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