Sunday, January 28, 2024

A water-stained postcard memory and fiddling with technology

Autumn (left) and Osmond "Bounds" Portifoy with today's postcard.

Since I started this blog in 2010, I've struggled at times with the technology to get quality pictures into the posts. This is supposed to be an ephemera archive, after all, so I want to include images that are sharp and true. 

For many years, the majority of the images for Papergreat came via flatbed scanner. It could be a cumbersome process, especially for posts with many images. The worst part, though, wasn't that it was time-consuming. It was that our various scanners struggled to faithfully reproduce certain colors, especially blues and purples, as I recall. There was an extent to which I could counterbalance that in photo-editing software, but often I just had to live with the flawed result.

In recent years, I made a big switch, and almost all images have come from my iPhone photography. The combination of speed (compared to a scanner) and high-resolution image was enough for me to make the switch. The downsides are that I need to be mindful of the lighting conditions, and it's harder to keep images from being skewed, depending on the angle at which I'm holding the camera. (Another upside, though, is that it has allowed for a lot more photos that include cats.)

I've been itching to try a scanner again, because it's better than an iPhone for things like postcards, old photographs and book covers that have a lot of reflectivity. So I got a CanonScan LiDE 300, which plugs right into my laptop.  

For the first test, I gave it a challenge. When we were at Bookmans here in Arizona last autumn, Joan found an amazing postcard of the Motel Providence in Media, Pennsylvania. Besides having some minor sentimental value for my family history (more on that in a moment), the postcard is a water-stained work of art. Somewhere along the way, it got pressed up against the back of another postcard, and the pigments from that other card's stamps and cursive writing now appear on the front of the Motel Providence postcard. 

For most, I suppose, that would mean the damaged postcard should just be tossed. To me, though, it has been turned into a one-of-a-kind artwork. To get more of a sense of the aesthetic I'm talking about, this January 2018 post and its many related links are a good start. I love a mint vintage postcard as much as anyone, but damaged cards that have nonetheless survived the passing decades are sublime.

Alas, the scanner couldn't handle the colors of this postcard as well as I would have hoped. First, here's the front of the postcard from a photograph taken with my iPhone SE:
This is a faithful reproduction. That stamp (hey there, President Lincoln) and the handwriting are basically hot pink atop the glossy photograph.

Meanwhile, this is the image from the CanonScan LiDE 300, and this is after some minor tweaks and a boost of a saturation levels in Pixlr:
Ugh. It could not handle the hot pink at all, turning it lighter and purple. I don't think this will be an issue with everything I use the scanner for, moving forward, but it's a bummer nonetheless and I'll have to be cognizant of comparing originals to the scanned images. (While I also adjust to wearing my new 1.25 reading glasses.)
Those reading glasses, plus my grandmother's trusty magnifying glass, show me the following text on the back of this postcard:
Area Code 215       Phone LO 6-6480
Media, Pennsylvania
Delaware County's newest and finest Air Conditioned economy motel. 10 miles West of Philadelphia — 4 miles North of Chester. Intersection of Rt. #1 & Rt. #252. 
No charge for "in room" Continental Breakfast — 6:00 A.M. to 10:00 A.M.
Interiors by Strawbridge and Clothier.
Radio & T.V. by R.C.A. Air conditioning by G.E. Fire proof & sound proof construction. Architecturally designed and engineered by MEDIA REAL ESTATE COMPANY.
Color photography by Jay Layton Manning, Ardmore, Pa.
Our family of four would sometimes stay at Motel Providence in the late 1970s through mid 1980s when we came from Clayton or Montoursville or Largo and visited my grandmother and great-grandparents at their house on nearby Oak Crest Lane in Wallingford. It was a perfectly fine motel that served it purpose. There was a fast-food restaurant right next door — I can't remember whether it was McDonald's or Burger King — and we'd get breakfast and bring it back to the room. I guess it was better than the "continental breakfast."

Motel Providence is now called the Media Inn & Suites. The large MOTEL PROVIDENCE letters across the top of the roof are gone. But I guess they haven't been gone too long. A nine-minute film was shot there in 2014, and the letters were still atop the building:

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