Dear retouching tablet,

I knew you wouldn’t last forever; I just didn’t think you’d leave so soon. I knew something was wrong when not even the new driver could solve your problems. You had been acting erratic for weeks and I sensed the end was near. The last time I attempted to turn you on, you hesitated, then blinked rapidly; I think it was your way of saying “goodbye.”

I’ll miss you. We’ve been together for the past three years and, oh, the things we’ve seen; the images we’ve retouched. The birth of a baby; the birth of a marriage, students embarking upon their final year of high school, and the families. All the families.

As I think about our time together, I realize how much artwork has changed. Thinking about what retouching has become is impossible without thinking about where it’s been. You and I look around at people who dabble in photography and we see how they retouch; how easy it is to throw on filter or apply an action to an image. Heck, they don’t even need you. All they need to do is click a mouse.

But, dear tablet, you know I don’t fall into that category. We never did shortcuts. Before I met you, I was trained classically with brushes, dyes and pencils. I learned to retouch negatives through double magnification and I became all too familiar with that gritty retouch spray that was a necessary evil for pencil work. I had my own recipe for “flesh tone”- a mixture of flesh, green and pink with additional colors mixed in to combat color casts and one could always hear me in the back of the studio breathing heavy on my dry dies to warm them up or blow-drying my wet-dye palette to hurry up the process. When I think of how different photography is today, it boggles the mind.

You and I, old friend-we did it right. We watched the light, always the light; how it fell on the face; how it lit the eyes. We worked with the light Frank captured. We worked on individual aspects of each print, down to the iris of the eye and the highlights in the hair and we didn’t stop until we were satisfied we had achieved perfection.

Some people laughed at us. They said all that attention isn’t necessary and just a waste of time. You and I knew better. Those that laughed hadn’t the foggiest clue how to do what we did, so we just smiled and kept right on with our artwork.

This afternoon, I’ll meet a new retouching tablet. We’ll go on great adventures together; we’ll do what they said can’t be done.
We’ll retouch the future with attention to detail, preserving the light and rich colors that Frank gives us, just like you and I did.

Thank you, dear retouching tablet. We helped make memories.