Digital Tools Give New Life to Photos from the 1970s

How a Julius Erving wall started with a 25 year old 8”x10” print and
ended up as a 13x17 foot mural in Converse’s corporate headquarters.

The largest photograph of Julius Erving ever made
Larry Berman with a big Julius Erving
The largest photograph of Julius Erving ever made

Click here to see hundreds of photographs of Julius Erving (Dr J)

In the mid 1970s, I combined my passion for photography with my love of basketball by working as a freelance sports photographer. My somewhat illustrious career consisted of doing assignments for the New York Nets, the NBA programs, Converse and Spalding, and resulted in my images appearing on more than 20 magazine and book covers and posters. After a few seasons, I left the world of sports photography to pursue my own personal vision of photography, spending the next 25 years earning a living selling my fine art photography at art shows.

My sports shooting past was resurrected in early in 2003 while I was cleaning out the basement and I came across boxes of slides, prints and old magazines I had kept from the 1970s. Included in the collection were a few hundred of the best images I had created 25 years ago. It struck me that today’s technology would now allow me to show and market my early work as never before.

The Project
I started by scanning the 35mm transparency film using a Polaroid Sprintscan 4000 film scanner. The black and white prints were captured with an Epson Perfection 1640SU flatbed scanner. Over a two-month period, I scanned over 300 images. Each scan needed between one and three hours to clean up and optimize in Photoshop, including lots of work with the Healing Brush and Cloning Tool. With today’s superior technology I found that I was able to make excellent prints ranging from 8”x10” up to 20”x30”. Eventually my “basketball” folder reached over 40 Gigabytes, necessitating the purchase of a second hard drive for storage and a DVD burner for back up.

Next, I registered the domain http://BermanSports.com and began building a web site that would allow people to find my images and easily purchase them. To build traffic I began running auctions on eBay, both driving potential buyers to my site and generating a nice cash flow to keep the project going. I worked hard to make my site not only easy for people to use, but optimized for search engines as well. To be successful I needed to have my site appear when potential buyers searched for the names of the famous sports stars that I had photographed.

How Converse found me
This past summer, Chad Smoak, the marketing director at Converse, contacted me. Converse has an extremely large office space in North Andover Massachusetts, and was looking to decorate their many conference rooms with wall size murals of their contract athletes. They had been looking for something special for their “Julius Erving Conference Room” when they came across my web site. Score one for Google and its excellent searching capability.
Producing the Wall
The photo that Converse chose happened to be one of my black and white images for which I did not have the original negative. I scanned an 8x10 print at full optical resolution of my Epson scanner, which produced a 165-megabyte file, cleaned it up and sent it to Converse on a CD. John MacNamara of Advanced Photographics used Photoshop to eliminate the white sign behind Julius Erving’s head and added information to the top and sides to make the image proportion fit the wall. He then used Genuine Fractals to increase the file size to approximately 700 megabytes and printed it in four 56" sections with a Vutek 2360 Solvent Printer onto vinyl wallpaper. The final size of the image was 13x17 feet. It might be the largest photograph of Julius Erving ever printed.
Visiting Converse
My wife Mary and I recently drove to Maine on a shooting trip, giving us a chance to stop at Converse and see the wall. To take the above photograph, I set my CoolPix 5000 with it’s built in 28mm lens on a tripod on to of the conference room table with the camera about seven feet off the floor, and Mary took the pictures of  me standing in front of the wall, giving it a sense of scale. As a finishing touch, a marker was furnished and they asked me to sign my photograph.
Larry Berman’s web site of 1970’s sports photography:


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