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PFC Carl Ralph Bonde, Jr. and the Spot on his Chin.

November 30, 2015


In trying to extract every available smidgeon of information about my late Uncle Carl, I often wonder, Hey!  How will I know when I’ve gotten all I can get?

I won’t.  My late mother’s younger brother remains enigmatic.  He died in 1944 in the English Channel.  Killed by a U-Boat torpedo.

I stare at his image in his basic training photograph.  Does he look like me?  Not that much.  He has full lips like I do.  His hair might look like mine, kind of, but his was curly, mine straight.  He had some sort of pimple on his chin.  He had that pimple (possibly a sebaceous cyst?)  in all his pictures, except his high school senior photograph.  I suspect it was removed from his school photo at the studio by retouching.

I know about retouching.  I used to study the photos of my high school classmates in the year books.  I graduated from Beaverhead County High School and the annual was called “The Beaver.”  The joke was that we boys really loved “The Beaver.”

You could see the retouching in “The Beaver,” done more or less expertly.

Perhaps 10 years ago my nephew gave me a professional grade studio retouching set.

The set consisted of a kind of machine, about the size of a box of beer, that has an illuminated translucent disk and magnetic ring for holding the negative in position.  A binocular magnifying lens was enabled the artist to do fine work.  It also had some sort of vibrating mechanism the frequency of which was adjustable with a dial.  The idea is that one could hold the negative onto the lit surface with the magnetic ring then, using a pencil specially sharpened to a fine point, to put tiny dots on the emulsion side of the film.  The vibrations helped to control the size and number of dots. One used softer pencil leads to make darker dots.

Zits and other blemishes show up as dark spots on a print, as in the photo of my Uncle, above.  Therefore, on the negative, the zits look like clear areas, not dark.  All one needs to do is fill the clear areas with little graphite dots to make them the same gray as the surrounding complexion.

I still have the retouching set.  I still use the film camera to make photographic copies of old images for my friends, mostly tribal types on the two nearby reservations.  Takes me about a year per photograph,  but I keep after it.  The retouching set is mostly useful as a magnifying apparatus to judge the sharpness of negatives.

What I remember most vividly about the book that accompanied the retouching machine, was the insistence that “grouch lines,” on the image of an older person, must be left intact.  I believe those lines would be between the eyes, at the bridge of the nose.  Other wrinkles, such as an old lady might want removed from her cheeks, could be obliterated by retouching.


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