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Coastal Character

The Coastal Journal, March 25, 2010
Interview by Will Gottlieb, Coastal Journal Staff

BRUNSWICK — Before & After Photo is located in a strange little space

above Gulf of Maine Books on Maine Street in Brunswick. Christine herself

is tall and cheerful and more than a little busy. One gets the feeling that anything
is possible at Before & After.

"What's with all the old cameras? Are you a collector?"

"Most of these cameras have been brought in by people who knew I enjoy
photography. Which is really nice -- look at that! [picks up an ancient folding
Kodak, bellows & all]."

"They're beautiful! Lovely! You do of course have digital cameras, right?"

"I do! Yes. I do still shoot film, but digital photography definitely, as you know, has

advantages." "Have you always been an artist of sorts? Went to school for it?"

"Yes. I minored in photography but I majored in psychobiology. I realized I didn't
want to work in a research lab when I graduation from Wheaton College, Norton
MA, instead I got a job working in a photo lab."

"What is Before & After Photo? What do you do here?"

"Restoration of damaged or less than perfect photos, for example the removal of a '70s hairdo to a modern hair style, removing background leaving just the two important people. The nice thing is you can change the size of an original photo, if the original is really small but clearly focused, I can enlarge it.  I have a black and white darkroom where I process film and print the old fashioned way. Before & After Photo is an all-purpose photography studio. I welcome people with camera questions, film or digital, if it's photographic I can help."

"How did you get into this?"

"I started working in black & white photo labs, when computer technology arrived, I decided to learn the digital end of photography. Learning Photoshop was the biggest challenge but the greatest tool. Each job I work on has it's own challenges. Like this —" [picks up a photo, faded and creases having been folded and perhaps wetted], "this original photograph is heavily damaged, and this" [bright, colorized, contiguous reconstruction] "is the finished product."

That's really impressive!


Business owner and digital artist, Christine Olmsted

Full Service Photography in Brunswick

Coastal Journal 2007

BRUNSWICK - Before & After Photo opened five years ago when Christine Olmsted combined her 13 years of black and white photo lab experience with digital image manipulation.

Services include scanning and digital enhancement of photographs, negatives and slides, elimination of scratches, dust, creases, rips, fading, water stains and image loss. The restored images is printed on professional color photographic paper to your size requirements, one copy or multiple copies.

Christine Olmsted also offers her own collection of fine art photography for sale as finished prints or beautiful note cards. The beauty of water in Maine and New England combined with sunlight, texture and contrast are the elements in her photographs.

The in-house custom black and white darkroom at Before & After Photo invites old cameras and their owners. Both are always welcome, whether looking for camera advice or just needing help loading film.

If it's photographic, Before & After Photos is the place to take all your precious family photographs for friendly expert advice and service.

"We treat our photos and customers the same, each as one-of-a-kind, with respect."

Please call 207-725-9499 to see how Christine can assist in your photographic projects, large or small. Business hours are Monday through Friday, 9:00am - 5:00pm and any other time by appointment;

Passion for photos keeps Bath woman clicking away

November 16, 2002

By Christopher Cousins, Times Record Staff

BATH Christine MacKenzie can make people appear and disappear, and can remove blemishes from your face with the touch of a button.

What sounds like a cross between a mafia don and a dermatologist miracle worker is actually MacKenzie's one-year-old business, Before & After Photo Restoration.

It's not quite as easy as the click of a button, but MacKenzie has found her passion in restoring and altering photographs. There are unlimited reasons why someone would want a photo altered, but all the reasons can be traced back to one fact: photographs are among the most cherished possessions people have because they are usually one of a kind and can not be replaced.

One woman came to MacKenzie with a badly damaged photo of a man. Most of the picture had flacked away because of decades of exposure and abuse. Half the man's face was missing, including his left ear and part of an eye.

With patience and computer equipment, both of which she utilizes in her office at 72 Front St. (now located at 136 Maine St., Suite #3, Brunswick, 725-9499), MacKenzie was able to restore the photo to its original state.

On a similar job, MacKenzie recreated a man's hair using a picture of the man's son, who wore the same hairstyle.

It's all in a day's work, she said.

MacKenzie can also wave her magical digital wand to make people appear and disappear from photographs. Most of her work involves family photographs that people want altered for a variety of reasons.

Taking a person out of a picture isn't an easy business since MacKenzie has to re-create whatever is behind the person. In addition, she makes adjustments to shadows and lighting to make the effect more realistic.

Sometimes, she enlarges a photo up to 300 times it's original size to retouch a minuscule imperfection.

MacKenzie, who is also a photographer, can create near-perfect negatives from a print and offers custom and archival black and white printing.

The story of how MacKenzie entered this professional started when she was a student at Wheaton College in Norton, MA studying something completely removed from photography; psychobiology. When she graduated, with a minor in photography, she realize she didn't want to spend her life working in a research laboratory, so she got a job processing photographs - in a photo laboratory.

The eight years she spent at that job, located in Concord, MA, was where she gained the bulk of her knowledge about photography and working in a darkroom. Her mentor was the late Diane Broadley, a commercial photographer who taught MacKenzie how to run a professional black and white photo lab.

When MacKenzie was hired to photograph hundreds of historic photographs and documents at the Concord Public Library for use in a book, MacKenzie's love of old photographs was born.

"I was amazed that I was able to handle these old photographs and documents that no one else had ever seen," she said. "That was my first foray into working with historic prints."

In 1996, MacKenzie landed a job at a small weekly newspaper in New Hampshire developing film for the photo staff, followed by three years working for The Times Record in various departments. She then started working for a local photo lab in Brunswick where she began retouching old photos - the niche her business now focuses on.

In MacKenzie's business, as in many others, ethical questions sometime arise. Is it right to put someone in photo who was never there? Should she make something old look like something new?

First and foremost, MacKenzie won't retouch professionally taken images unless it's at least 75 years old or has permission from the studio. Second, she's reluctant to ruin the character a photo gains by being old.

Making her work look like genuine photographs is her chief goal.

Her prices vary due to size, extent of the work to be done and printing medium, ranging from $25 for minor restoration on a small print to $125 for major restoration and an 11x14 finished print. The most expensive jobs involve recreation of major features, especially facial features. If too much is missing from the original photo, the job could be impossible.

One of MacKenzie's regular customers is the Special Collections and Archives department at Bowdoin College. MacKenzie takes photographs of documents, artifacts, pages from books and pictures - all of which constitute some of the college's most precious historic possessions.

"She's punctual, extremely attentive to detail," said Richard Lindemann, the special collection director. "There are many problems associated with the handling of rare materials, but she's meticulous and careful. She's an incredibly gifted photographer and technician. It's not always easy to find those two qualities in one person."

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