I never knew anything about Al Capone, the notorious gangster, except that he was a bad person, and that he was from Chicago, my hometown. The other day I was searching for a photo related to slavery mind you and this extraordinary one, completely unrelated to slavery, came up. It captured my attention instantly. This is my matted version of Al Capone’s prison cell when he was at Eastern Penitentiary in Philadelphia in 1929. According to Wikipedia, “The warden and guards at ESP gave special consideration to Mr. Capone during his stay, permitting him to hang artwork, tables and lamps, a velvet duvet, comfortable chair and an expensive radio… Capone enjoyed listening to waltzes after dinner.”
I think about this photo, my version unmatted here, in the context of the unfairness of our current criminal justice system, where millions of African-Americans are incarcerated in disproportionate numbers and for disproportionate sentences as compared to whites for comparable offenses.
In terms of process, I created new layer for each item that I colored in the cell – the straight chair, rug, arm chair, bed, picture. I used the same layer for the hutch and end table. Since the hutch was much darker it just appears as a light stain, which was fine with me. I used overlay on all items and color burned the arm chair and rug as well as the back lamp. I played with the opacity but liked the picture best at 100%. Finally, I had to prepare the picture for the web. I went into image size and made sure the picture wasn’t too big to upload (more than 3M) and I selected a medium jpeg. I saved it into my picture folder and uploaded it to the blog from there.
While there was really no suitable “scene” in this picture for a vignette, I created the one above to illustrate the technique as required for this digital images class assignment.
This is the picture that I turned to black and white – so this is where I started. It looks bleaker than the color version, but still given the items in the room, luxurious by prison standards and by some home standards!
As instructed, I began the entire process by looking at the picture. I really wanted to give the walls that interesting look as they have in the original picture below. I also wanted to retain the lighting glow – though I had some trouble with that as well. I used curves to play with the tones, but still the light in my version is brighter than I wanted but better than my first version after the color burn.
This is one of the original color versions of the picture from the web. My version does not look like this version for two reasons: 1) I chose a different color palate and cropped the picture differently, and 2) I’m just learning Photoshop and had trouble achieving some effects, like the light on the left wall and desk. I tried burning the color on the walls but that placed odd looking orange smudges on the brown parts of the wall.
So all in all this was a time-consuming but great learning experience. I am better able to use some of the Photoshop tools. I’ll leave readers with this question: What can we collectively do to make sure that our justice system is fair for all. Al Capone’s cell is symbolic of the inequalities that continue to exist.