I am working on scanning and restoring photographs this week. My new scanner hums nicely away at my desk, and turns my old, faded, badly-beat-up negatives into lovely color digital representations. It seems quite magical to me. I frown at the negatives as I load them into the film holder. They have so many scratches and crap on them it's just sad. The scanner software can remove a decent amount of problems, but not all. The rest is left up to me, me and Photoshop.

My eyes are red and puffy from staring at the computer screen, scanning for minute imperfections. A pixel here, a pixel there, everywhere a pixel pixel. I am careful not to go crazy, past the level of my abilities, as that seems to cause me great grief when I have to dump out of a hour's correction work when it ends up looking like crap. I am improving them, but I can't perfect them. Someone else will have to do that if needed.

I enlarge the picture so much at times that is it just a fuzzy meld of colors, not a person or a guitar or a drum kit. It comes down to little dots of light, which I match as closely as I can. It is about an opposite an experience from taking the pictures as possible. Catching the images was seeing the big thing, moving all the time, intensely physical, keeping senses keen, instinct high. Making the pictures whole again, is patience and extreme detail, a solo job, quiet and methodical. My ass is sore from sitting, too. I actually wanted to take a break and load the dishes into the dishwasher, that should tell you something.

The hardest thing with taking the photos was so many times you would miss the moment, the great shot, and sometimes it never came again. You would see it, but for whatever reason -- bad light, too much movement, a moment's distraction -- it was gone and you had to look for the next. I would get so discouraged sometimes; some nights just didn't go my way, I didn't get crap to show for the effort, and I felt like I screwed up. But probably the next show would be better, or maybe it would be WOW, and that was glorious, a giddy high. I would nearly DIE waiting for the pictures to come back from Chicago's big Kodak lab, in the bright yellow/orange sleeve.

But here, now, it's all right in front of me, all that work and joy and fail, in glorious 4800dpi, which my eye cannot even interpret. These photographs, all so familiar to me, turn into something else as I examine every little corner of them. Since I never processed and printed them myself originally, now I can play with them, change every last thing about them if I like. They become a landscape of tone and texture and dots, abstract and unreal. If I mess something up, all I have to do is click on "undo" and all is well, until I make some other mess. I can undo all day long, and there is some good comfort in that. There's really nothing I can do that will wreck anything permanently, nothing I am going to lose forever. I am pleased when one of them turns out well, all the scratches are gone, faded color returned to healthy reality, when they look more like how I remember them through the viewfinder. But in breaking them down to the pixel, the pore, their grainy bits and pieces, maybe I see too much about them. They lose a little of their magic when I see all their problems, and that is too bad. It's like if you spend too much time looking in the mirror -- it's good to do a quick check, do a little fluff and adjust, but if you keep staring, you are just going to find more things to fix, and you will miss your damn bus trying to get some pepper out of your teeth or something.

So I click on "Zoom Out" a few times until the photo looks like a person again, and has life and movement and reality. File saved, next.