In 15 years, they have handled about 1 million photos-they are all old photos, most of them are like just snatched back from the hands of time, with clear marks of injuries, such as dark or light spots and cracks. Invisible scars come from memory, no matter how unforgettable, the memory will become blurred with time. Those pictures may be the last entrustment of some people, a father who has died, a mother who has gone away, a love or a childhood.
Zhou Biao is a photo restorer. Simply put, his job is to repair the broken old photos. Every day, about 300 such photos are passed to him. There are some repetitive techniques, such as stretching and filling, merging layers, repairing incomplete images, etc., but techniques cannot completely conceal the traces of time. The last link of this work is always done with the brush in hand. According to the client’s description, Zhou Biao wanted to restore the person in their memory one by one.
This is a test of patience. In many cases, people’s “firm” memories and beautiful imaginations make them unable to accept any slight difference. “This eyebrow seems to be half a millimeter lower?” “This version is a bit serious, it should be a little bit of a smile.” “This version is too obvious to smile. Be tactful.”…
Time will put all the details on the “mosaic” “The trouble with it may be that people don’t remember what those eyebrows and expressions are like, but if they are not what they remember, they will be seen through. In the most exaggerated time, there was a photo whose weekly label was changed for half a year, and it went through more than 40 versions. The customer was an elderly grandfather, and he brought a photo of a young woman whose one-third of the skin was peeled and oxidized to a reddish-brown-that was the only photo he could find of his wife when he was young.
His old time with them
Zhou Biao always remembered the old grandfather’s voice and his sad whisper: “My wife was very beautiful when she married me. She had a lot of hardships when she had children and asked for a living with me. Just pulled her children up. At one point, she died of a sudden illness. Now that her children are married and living conditions have improved, she is not there when she is enjoying her old age and living a good life. She has nothing but hardships in her life, not even a good day. After…” Zhou Biao listened quietly, piecing together the outlines of the characters in an almost freehand feeling.
A few months passed, and the grandfather realized that he was a troublesome customer, and he almost begged Zhou Biao from behind. “Please help me to change it again, only you can help me.” After changing for a few months, he still couldn’t get enough. He felt that the girl who tried hundreds of ways to smile is still not like the memory of his wife when she was young. The look.
Finally, Grandpa thanked Zhou Biao. He said vaguely that he missed his wife too much, and he was embarrassed to talk about his children, but with Zhou Biao, he finally had the opportunity to talk about his wife one by one because of the “as it should” work exchanges. The little things can be listened carefully. Those years were poor and warm, and he couldn’t bear to end the conversation with Zhou Biao.
Zhou Biao knew that the photo itself was just a piece of paper and had no value. What is truly precious is the memory contained in the photo and the people in the photo. Zhou Biao’s job is to help today’s people find the memories of yesterday; and every memory is made up of gleaming lives.
Wu Qingchen’s uncle was a martyr who was only 22 years old when he participated in the battle of Menglianggu and died heroically in 1947. The only photo of the uncle’s military uniform in the family has been severely damaged after more than 70 years of ups and downs. Not only has the color faded and the outline of the figure is blurred, it has even begun to peel off in some places, and the cracks all over make the residual image. Precarious.
Considering that the age is too old, Zhou Biao can only repair it as much as possible. When a portrait of an uncle with a straight military uniform and a heroic face reappeared in front of Wu Qingchen’s father, the old man choked up. The two brothers have been separated from each other forever, but it is a great comfort to the living people to have a picture to convey their emotions and longings.
Zhou Biao himself was too, and his comfort came from his father-in-law—he thought of “stitching” photos of his father-in-law’s father. Zhou Biao’s father-in-law had never seen his father since he was born, and he didn’t even leave a picture to remember. Zhou Biao sometimes talks to his wife about whether or not to “make” such a photo for his father-in-law, but he delays again and again until he makes up his mind. He and his wife have been married for 10 years.
The separated siblings found each other in a photo. (Left: Before repair, Right: After repair)
”Only when you really become a father can you have a more personal experience of the affection between father and son.” After getting married in 2010, Zhou Biao had a pair of sons and daughters. Father, he feels the weight of intergenerational feelings even more.
Zhou Biao’s father-in-law is usually taciturn, very restrained, and doesn’t like socializing, so he can watch TV at home for a day. Zhou Biao guessed that if this matter was mentioned to him, he would definitely wave his hand and say don’t do it. Zhou Biao concealed his father-in-law and went back to the village secretly and met with relatives who had seen his father-in-law’s father. Uncles and aunts from his father-in-law’s hometown, as well as many elderly people in the village, moved a small bench one after another and gathered at the small shop in the village. Mark the sporadic memories that are far away. Zhou Biao took photos of all relatives with similar facial features. Finally, he made more than a dozen versions based on his aunt’s eyes, father-in-law’s mouth, nose, and face shape, and selected them for his 90-year-old grandmother. . My grandmother picked one out and said that it was quite similar, with a similarity of fifty to sixty percent.
On the eve of Ching Ming Festival in 2020, when Zhou Biao took his wife and children back to his father-in-law’s home for dinner, he nervously handed a 5-inch color photo to his father-in-law. Father-in-law took it and looked at it. There seemed to be no mood swings, and he didn’t say much. Then one day, the mother-in-law quietly pulled Zhou Biao and said that one night, the father-in-law was alone in the house, and silently wiped his tears at this “creative” portrait of his father.
His old time with them
Another photo that impressed Zhou Biao was a group photo of a full-length portrait of a pair of siblings. The elder sister on the left looks thirteen or fourteen years old, and the younger brother under the tree on the right is just about her shoulders, seven or eight years old. Due to the age, the sharpness of this black-and-white photo has been seriously reduced, the facial contours of the characters are still there, but the facial features are blurred, and the loss of details makes it difficult to recognize looks. But the siblings both grinned and grinned with teeth showing that the two people are very close.
But this is not a story about happy times. In fact, the siblings were separated at an early age and have not met each other for more than 30 years. This photo is the only group photo of them.
Things should start from last year. A young man posted a short video asking for help on the Internet. She said: “My uncle and mother took a photo when they were young, and the photo is now seriously damaged. Now I want to use this old photo to find someone who has been lost for many years. Uncle, I don’t know where there is a master who can help restore the photos?” This young man is the daughter of the elder sister in the photo. Once the short video was released, the number of views reached millions. This wish deeply touched the majority of netizens, and they began to frequently “@” Zhou Biao. Zhou Biao immediately contacted the other party and learned about the love and regret behind this photo.
The reason for separation is the simplest and most helpless-poverty. Not long after the siblings finished taking this group photo, the family gave their younger brother to a distant relative because they could not afford the expenses. Later, life gradually improved. My sister missed her younger brother and wanted to find him, but found out that the family of distant relatives had moved away and disappeared. For many years thereafter, my sister went around asking about the whereabouts of her distant relatives, but returned without success again and again.
Later, her sister got married, had her own family, and gave birth to children, but she never forgot her younger brother, and she often looked at the photos in her hands in trance or tears. Her daughter thought that her mother was in her 50s and she was getting older and could no longer find her uncle, but now that the Internet is so developed, it might be possible to mobilize social forces to help her mother find relatives. At this time, repairing this photo to make it more legible is the key to the whole thing.
Zhou Biao understands the ins and outs of the matter, and he often surfs the Internet and knows the spreading rules of the short video platform. Taking advantage of the popularity of the first video, the sooner the second is released, the better. So he received the photo at 19:00 that day, and he repaired it for 5 hours in a row. By 24:00, he took a group photo of his brother and sister with clear facial features and changed from black and white to color and sent it to the other party. “I have achieved more than 80% of the restoration.” The other party immediately released the second short video of seeking relatives, which received nearly 20 million views. Many netizens have liked, commented, and reposted, spreading the news more and more widely.
A week later, Zhou Biao suddenly received news of a girl seeking her relatives. The other party told him that his uncle really saw this photo and found their family. Now his mother and uncle have already recognized each other. They are very grateful to Zhou Biao for his help. The two people communicated through the Internet, but the joy and excitement of the girl still passed through the text.
Zhou Biao was stunned in front of the computer for a while. “It should be impossible, how is this possible? The world is so big, can you really find it?” But the facts told him that it was true. Most of the time, people need to struggle to find value in a job in order to resist the longer sense of wear and tear than the job itself. Zhou Biao didn’t need it. He felt that at such a moment, he could reach the original intentions that made him stick to it. Sometimes, he himself would slowly flip through those photos, thinking of people’s confession and longing, and sometimes cry. He will also think of those grateful words, such as: “Young man, you helped me fix the photos of my grandparents. This is a great thing to accumulate merit.” The person who said these words was an old grandfather, and his face was in Zhou Biao’s memory. The inside has long been blurred. That was when Zhou Biao first started this job. Was he 16 or 17? He doesn’t need to deliberately put together those memories, they will flash silently at a tired moment, and accompany him.
”The world is warm.” Zhou Biao answered every time he was asked questions like “meaning” in an interview.