Enhance! Finding tiny treats in huge old photographs

I’m a fan of old photographs scanned in at eye-seeringly high resolution. In fact, I’m sure I’ve mentioned this on my blog in the past.

Beyond the gorgeous, crisp look of these old images, it’s the details that sneak in which get me really excited. Little features that you could easily miss when looking at the image in full, but which can be scrutinised more closely when zooming in.

Here are a couple of recent examples I’ve stumbled across.

From a gorgeous shot, circa 1911, of Waterlow Court, a beautiful, low-cost arts and crafts housing scheme on Hampstead Garden Suburb, we can spy a cosy-looking desk in the back corner:


But what’s on the desk? It looks to a quick 21st century glance rather like a laptop, or even an iPad.


Ah! It’s a calendar, or something like it, in a frame. Of course it is. But how nice to get these extra details – a letter-writing kit, some framed family portraits, a notebook, and a desk blotter pad. It’s the little personal details that make it even easier to see this place as it was lived in – even in the absence of humans in the image itself.

Another one, this time from Archives New Zealand, shows a 1930s railway carriage – but a rather fancy one.

In this one, again, there are lots of sumptuous details to behold. But it’s the tech that catches my eyes…

Phwoar – would you get a load of that phone/radio receiver setup? Look how shiny. Gorgeous.


If you want an easy source of the kinds of beautiful, high-res images that set my pulse racing, I’d always recommend shorpy.com (just click each image to view large), meanwhile the National Library of New Zealand has a staggering amount of images online, which if you drill down enough, you can usually view at incredibly high resolution.