Colourisation of past brings new memories back to Derry

Photographs can speak a thousand words, especially old photos from the past.

Friday, 22nd October 2021, 6:43 pm
Foyle Street in bygone times.
Foyle Street in bygone times.

Reminiscence Photo Restoration Co in Derry takes us back in time by resurfacing old photographs dating as far back to the 1800s.

The man behind the process of this fascinating technique is Alex Duffy.

Alex gives lost photos a second life, providing the story behind each setting and scene. It gives us a real insight into what life was really like a few decades or centuries ago.

Sign up to our daily Derry Journal Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Men waiting at the Labour Exchange.

“I created this idea during the lockdown.” said Alex. “I have been using creative software for many years. Creating digital art, graphic design and video editing. My mother passed away in 2004 after a short illness and while we were sorting through stuff, I came across an old biscuit tin full of photos dating from the early 40s to the late 50s.

“Subjects included my late mother as a baby in a cot to other family members long gone. Given the age of the photos there was some damage and having the skills to restore them I thought I would give it a go.

“After working through a handful of photos, I started to post on social media on my own account and there was a good response and interest. People suggested that I should offer this as a service so then I launched Reminiscence Photo Restoration as a photo restoration service and social history gallery of old photos of Derry and Ireland.”

The first series of restorations Alex worked on was the U-Boats surrender from May 1945. Alex says the response has been “fantastic.”

“I then focused on an old Derry series, restoring photos from the late 1800s to 1900s of subjects and buildings long gone,” he said.

“My focus then moved to the factory girls (and guys) of Derry, the old Tillie and Henderson factory and others. More recently I have been working on a collection of photos by world renowned Mr Bert Hardy, a working-class photographer from London, who was in Derry in November of 1955.

“He was here from Picture Post magazine, and captured Derry in all of its beauty, but also the sadness due to the political landscape, discrimination and inequality.

“There was an article in the December 17, 1955 issue of the Picture Post Magazine that tells the story, tough times and resilient people. I have a copy of the issue I found online.”

There is something special about a photograph captured from a different time. A developed image gives off a certain type of nostalgia which evokes memories of days gone by. Alex adds a new but original dimension to our cherished photographs. He says photos are his inspiration.

“After our loved ones are long gone, sometimes these are all we have - photos and memories,” he says. “Sometimes we regret not taking enough photos. Social history and preserving it is also my inspiration. People love photos and love photos of Derry even more.

“It amazes me when I post a photo I worked on and within minutes there’s loads of reactions where I didn’t know the names of the people, buildings or location.

“I am inundated with information filling in all the gaps, it’s fantastic.

“Within some of my collection I was able to identify surviving family members, sometimes I contact them, or I will send them a copy of the photo.

“I love the reaction of being able do this, its makes the many, many hours that goes into each photo worthwhile.”

Alex grew up in Strathfoyle and is inspired by the U-Boats that where stationed at Lisahally during World War Two.

“It’s amazing how important that Lisahally was during WW2, I don’t think people realise. I have a WW2 collection of restorations, that takes in a wider aspect of the war from both sides.

“I collected these photos over a year by buying them from private sellers online. Every photo tells a story, I like to work on the photos that has the most character and tells its own story. Moments frozen in time!

To find out more check out Reminiscence Photo Restoration Co - Derry’s Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/Reminiscencerestore/