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What's In a Photograph?

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This is a brief introduction to photo preservation from an archivist's perspective.

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What's In a Photograph?

  1. 2. Overview <ul><li>I. The Image </li></ul><ul><li>II. The Object </li></ul><ul><li>III. In the Archives </li></ul><ul><li>IV. Exercise </li></ul>
  2. 3. I. The Image
  3. 4. What’s in an image? I. The Image
  4. 5. Reading an Image <ul><li>Five Ws </li></ul><ul><li>Who </li></ul><ul><li>What </li></ul><ul><li>Where </li></ul><ul><li>When </li></ul><ul><li>Why </li></ul>I. The Image
  5. 6. Reading an Image <ul><li>Who? </li></ul><ul><li>Photographer </li></ul><ul><li>Subject </li></ul>I. The Image
  6. 7. Reading an Image <ul><li>What? </li></ul><ul><li>Present </li></ul><ul><li>Absent </li></ul>I. The Image
  7. 8. Reading an Image <ul><li>Where? </li></ul><ul><li>Location </li></ul>I. The Image
  8. 9. Reading an Image <ul><li>When? </li></ul><ul><li>Fashion </li></ul><ul><li>Technology </li></ul><ul><li>Absence </li></ul>I. The Image
  9. 10. Reading an Image <ul><li>Why? </li></ul><ul><li>Context </li></ul><ul><li>Intention </li></ul>The &quot;Carrying-in Boy,&quot; In an Indiana Glass Works, 1:00 A. M., Aug., 1908. Location: Indiana. National Child Labor Committee Collection I. The Image
  10. 11. Reading an Image <ul><li>Visual Elements </li></ul><ul><li>Composition </li></ul><ul><li>Depth of field </li></ul><ul><li>Point of view </li></ul><ul><li>Rhythm </li></ul><ul><li>Color balance </li></ul><ul><li>Tonal range </li></ul>I. The Image
  11. 13. II. The Object
  12. 14. Photo Basics II. The Object
  13. 15. What is photography? II. The Object
  14. 16. Photo History II. The Object
  15. 17. Trends in Photo History <ul><li>Easier to create </li></ul><ul><li>Easier to duplicate </li></ul><ul><li>More accessible </li></ul><ul><li>Cheaper </li></ul>II. The Object
  16. 18. What is a photograph? <ul><li>A complex physical object that has an image fixed via a chemical process </li></ul>II. The Object
  17. 19. Photograph Structure Base: paper, glass, metal, plastic Light-sensitive particles: silver, color dyes Emulsion: gelatin, albumen, collodion Baryta layer II. The Object
  18. 20. Physical Evidence <ul><li>Polarity </li></ul><ul><li>Size </li></ul><ul><li>Base and mount </li></ul><ul><li>Color </li></ul><ul><li>Reflection </li></ul><ul><li>Microscopic appearance </li></ul>II. The Object
  19. 21. Physical Evidence II. The Object
  20. 22. Common Formats and Processes II. The Object
  21. 23. Tintypes (ca. 1856-1930s) <ul><li>Collodion on blackened iron base </li></ul><ul><li>Direct positive image </li></ul><ul><li>Extremely popular during Civil War </li></ul>II. The Object
  22. 24. Tintypes (ca. 1856-1930s) <ul><li>Cheap and ubiquitous </li></ul><ul><li>Often worn or scratched </li></ul><ul><li>Identification: </li></ul><ul><li>Snip marks </li></ul><ul><li>Magnet test (on back) </li></ul><ul><li>Reversed image </li></ul><ul><li>Mainly portraiture </li></ul>II. The Object
  23. 25. Albumen Prints (1850-1895) <ul><li>POP from wet collodion negatives </li></ul><ul><li>Always mounted </li></ul><ul><li>Tend toward sepia/yellowish </li></ul>II. The Object
  24. 26. Albumen Prints (1850-1895) <ul><li>80% of extant 19 th -century prints </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Cartes-de-visite </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cabinet cards </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Identification: </li></ul><ul><li>Paper fibers </li></ul><ul><li>Cracking </li></ul><ul><li>Yellowing </li></ul><ul><li>Mount </li></ul>Paper fibers visible 30x magnification II. The Object
  25. 27. Silver Gelatin DOPs (1885-present) <ul><li>Dominant 20 th -century process </li></ul><ul><li>Dozens of formats </li></ul><ul><li>Identification: </li></ul><ul><li>Neutral unless toned </li></ul><ul><li>Baryta layer (no paper fibers visible) </li></ul>II. The Object
  26. 28. Silver Gelatin DOPs (1885-present) II. The Object
  27. 29. Color Prints (1930s-today) <ul><li>Organic dyes </li></ul><ul><li>Many processes </li></ul><ul><li>Identification: </li></ul><ul><li>Characteristic deterioration </li></ul><ul><li>Unstable </li></ul>II. The Object
  28. 30. Instant Photos (1948-today*) <ul><li>Photo printed from packet with negative, developer, base </li></ul><ul><li>Identification: </li></ul><ul><li>Adhesion markings or developing pod </li></ul><ul><li>Coating flaws </li></ul><ul><li>Unique </li></ul><ul><li>Unstable </li></ul>II. The Object
  29. 31. Film Negatives <ul><li>Cellulose nitrate </li></ul><ul><li>(1887-1950) </li></ul><ul><li>Cellulose diacetate (1937-1956) </li></ul><ul><li>Cellulose triacetate (1947-present) </li></ul><ul><li>Polyester </li></ul><ul><li>(1960-present) </li></ul>Roll film II. The Object
  30. 32. Film Negatives <ul><li>Identification: </li></ul><ul><li>Notch codes </li></ul><ul><li>Other tests </li></ul><ul><li>Cellulose bases unstable </li></ul>Sheet film II. The Object
  31. 33. Other Processes II. The Object
  32. 34. Digital Photos (1990-today) <ul><li>Sensor converts light to bits, computer renders image </li></ul><ul><li>Digital preservation </li></ul>II. The Object
  33. 35. III. In the Archives
  34. 36. Why? <ul><li>Why identify photographs? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Preservation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Access </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Context </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Photographs offer evidences and resonances not offered by other media </li></ul>III. In the Archives
  35. 37. Handling <ul><li>Wear gloves </li></ul><ul><li>Provide support </li></ul><ul><li>Use only pencils </li></ul><ul><li>Gently remove from housing </li></ul><ul><li>Be aware of physical condition </li></ul><ul><li>Create and follow handling policy </li></ul><ul><li>Consider surrogates </li></ul>III. In the Archives
  36. 38. <ul><li>Paper (envelopes, four-flaps) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Cheaper, blocks light, breathable </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Viewing requires handling </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Plastic (polyester, polystyrene, etc. No PVC!) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Viewing without handling </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Expensive, not for unstable items </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Must pass Photographic Activity Test (PAT) </li></ul>Housing III. In the Archives
  37. 39. Housing <ul><li>Boxes and folders </li></ul><ul><ul><li>PAT test </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Proper support for format (long edge down or flat) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ideally, separate photographs from other materials, and then by format (especially negatives!) </li></ul><ul><li>Balance condition/format, use, resources </li></ul>III. In the Archives
  38. 40. Environment <ul><li>Temperature / relative humidity </li></ul><ul><li>Light (sunlight, UV light) </li></ul><ul><li>Pollutants (gaseous and particulate) </li></ul><ul><li>Biological (mold, fungus, pests) </li></ul>III. In the Archives
  39. 41. Environment <ul><li>B/W silver gelatin: 65°F, 30-50% RH </li></ul><ul><li>B/W acetate negatives: 7°F, 30-50% RH </li></ul><ul><li>Chromogenic dye on paper: 36°F, 30-40% RH </li></ul><ul><li>Most good for the most items </li></ul>III. In the Archives
  40. 42. Selected Resources <ul><li>General </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Photographs: Archival Care and Management, Ritzenthaler & Vogt-O'Connor (2006) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Care and Identification of 19th-Century Photographic Prints , Reilly (1986) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>SAA photo preservation workshop </li></ul></ul>III. In the Archives
  41. 43. Selected Resources <ul><li>Cartes de Visite </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Cartes de Visite in Nineteenth Century Photography, Darrah (1981) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Fashion </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900 , Severa (1995) </li></ul></ul>III. In the Archives
  42. 44. Selected Resources <ul><li>Gelatin silver </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A Guide to Fiber-Base Gelatin Silver Print Condition and Deterioration, Weaver (2008) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Negatives </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The Acetate Negative Survey, Horvath (1987) </li></ul></ul>III. In the Archives
  43. 45. IV. Exercise <ul><li>Divide into three groups </li></ul><ul><li>Pick a reporter </li></ul><ul><li>Identify photograph using image and physical evidence (5 min) </li></ul><ul><li>Share your conclusions </li></ul>
  44. 46. Group 1
  45. 47. Group 1 <ul><li>Sixth-plate sized tintype, 1880s </li></ul><ul><li>Magnet test, snip marks </li></ul><ul><li>Image reversed – watch customarily on left </li></ul><ul><li>Jacket, tie, and hat match 1880s style </li></ul>
  46. 48. Group 2
  47. 49. Group 2 <ul><li>Carte-de-visite, early 1870s </li></ul><ul><li>Medium card stock, square corners (1869-1871) </li></ul><ul><li>Borders, common 1861-1869 </li></ul><ul><li>Imprint with length-wise large type (common 1870-1875) </li></ul><ul><li>Shoes probably 1865-1875 </li></ul><ul><li>Photographers active in 1870s </li></ul>
  48. 50. Group 3
  49. 51. Group 3 <ul><li>Gelatin silver “real photo” postcard, ca. 1910s </li></ul><ul><li>Neutral tonal range, silvering </li></ul><ul><li>Cyko postage stamp area (1904-1920s) </li></ul><ul><li>Divided back, no border: 1907-1915 </li></ul>III. In the Archives
  50. 52. Thank you!

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