Old B+W Photograph. Need Help Preserving It.

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Apologies for not being directly related to large format. But I would like to ask the darkroom workers on this site, who regularly concern themselves with issues of permanence, and many of whom opinion is very trustworthy, for help with the following:

The only decent photo I have of my mom, who passed away in 1975, is a small unmounted 3x5 B+W print taken around 1960. It has yellow stains, perhaps due to aging and incompletely remove fixer??? The surface of the paper has a semi-matt like, microbeaded, plasticky appearance. (I don't know if this is a resin-coated or fiber paper.)

My question is: Is it too late, to give this print a thorough wash, then a selenium tone, final wash, and then an archival drymount and overmatt process?

Thank you in advance for your help.

-- Andre Noble (andrenoble@yahoo.com), March 14, 2002


Perhaps with proper filtering you could make a good copy negative and go from there. Just a thought. Regards, Merg Ross

-- (mergross@aol.com), March 14, 2002.

Shoot a 4X5 copy negative; use a yellow filter if you wish to lighten the stain; use a blue filter if you wish to darken the stain.

-- Per Volquartz (volquartz@volquartz.com), March 14, 2002.

I'll also stand behind the suggestions to shoot a large-format copy neg. Try to match the filtration to the color of the stain to remove it.

It should be fiber paper. I don't think there was RC B&W paper yet in 1960.

-- David Goldfarb (dgoldfarb@barnard.edu), March 14, 2002.

I think this is one where digital wins hands down, have the print scanned (preferably a good drum scan) and then correct it with photoshop. After I would take it to a service bureau to have them make you a corrected negative on a film recorder. Good luck and I hope you can save the print.

BTW without seeing the print I think is hard to advice you to wet the print, it might be too far gone and the base might separate, thus ruining the print. I would first make me a copy neg before attempting something like that.

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (rossorabbit@hotmail.com), March 14, 2002.

Never screw with the original! This might be one of the various textured surfaces available back then. Certainly fiber, maybe the Kodak "silk" finish (can't remember the letter designations). Shoot it through a filter to remove the stain, and maybe with polarizers on the camera and lights to remove reflections from the textured surface. Use a straight-line combination of film and developer suitable for copy work. Or take the digital option, but note that the right filter might be more effective on the stain. Of course, not much is more effective than Photoshop!

-- Conrad Hoffman (choffman@rpa.net), March 14, 2002.


I agree with Jorge; scan it at very high resolution, and then correct the stains.

I did something like this recently for a friend whose mother had only one, small (approx. 2x3) photo of her own mother. I used a flatbed scanner to scan it at high res, then removed scratches and toning problems by using Photoshop, and printed an 8x10. In that case I found it easiest to convert it to grayscale before making the corrections, and then re-tone it once I finished. My friend's mother didn't care about the lack of sharpness in the 8x10, and it was exciting to have such a large print.

If you don't have Photoshop, you can probably get a basic version for not too much money. Sometimes it comes bundled with a scanner or digital camera (perhaps an excuse to buy that new Nikon), or you may be able to get an educational discount. These kinds of corrections are not hard to make, but they do take practice and patience.

If you have questions about making these corrections you can feel free to email me, although I do admit that I'm not a Photoshop expert.

Good luck.

-- Matthew Runde (actorm@hotmail.com), March 14, 2002.

Don't real drum scans (not Imacons which are CCD scanners?)involve fixing the medium to the drum with an oil?

I like the large format/filter idea, and endorse not messing with the original.

-- Steve Hamley (sahamley@netscape.net), March 14, 2002.

Thank you all very much for steering me away from dipping the photo in water. (Perhaps I just wanted to give my mom a second baptism, but it's not such a great idea)

Your ideas about making a large format negative from the print, with yellow filter to remove the stain, has a wonderful ring to it. I won't have to buy new stuff, or turn the work over to someone else.

Conrad, you are right, by looking at the back of the print, I see the original photo is on some type of Kodak paper.

Thanks all for your kind replies. Andre

-- Andre Noble (andrenoble@yahoo.com), March 14, 2002.

Don't real drum scans (not Imacons which are CCD scanners?)involve fixing the medium to the drum with an oil?

You can use oil with a trans on a drum to prevent Newton Rings, there are also sprays that do a similar type thing. Reflective copy does not require it.

-- mateo (mateoleyba@yahoo.com), March 15, 2002.

Conrad couldn't have said it better....use a panchromatic film--TMX 100 is actually pretty good in 4x5 as a copy film--if you want to use filters to remove the stain. Ilford Ortho Plus copy film is great for copywork--especially faded yellowed prints...it works like a built-in wratten 47B (deep blue) filter, but without the 4.5 stop increase that filter needs. But blue filters, or ortho copy films, can also accentuate every scrap of dirt on an old print....they will bring out alot of detail, coupled with the right developer....and of course, ortho films aren't so hot for certain colors--reds etc.....

Polaroid type 55 isn't a bad copyfilm either...the neg is so fragile though....TMX is on a polyester base, pretty stable stuff.

BTW, if you have to go digital--use a camera and shoot on a copystand at the highest res. If that print has a pebble like texture, or a tweed texture to it...you may run into some problems on a flatbed with weird reflections from the lightsource hitting it in the pass.....the old trick here is as Conrad said, to cross-polarize with gels aligned in one direction on the lights, and the other way on the lens...I just shot a whole slew of old, silvered & yellowed out prints this way yesterday...a polarizer on the lens, 2 speedotrons with polarizing screens, and Ortho Plus copy film. It takes alot of juice to do this though....my exposure for an 8x10 sized print was 2 pops at f16.5 with a 2400ws powerpack....negs looked great though.

I'd get a little 4x5 negative envelope from Light Impressions or someplace like that...get a buffered/acid & lignin free envelope and store the original in there in a cool & dry spot. The stain could be from anything--bad processing, storage or both. If you have to handle it alot, keep your mitts off it....seriously, this is what kills most prints in the long run. Good luck...

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), March 15, 2002.

I attempted a basic copy set-up with 2 unpolarized photo bulbs at 45 degrees, and some Kodak Copy Film, a warm-up filter (don't have a yellow filter). Will proces sheets later today. If this attempt not satisfactory, will try again later with polarizers and yellow filters as mentioned above.

PS: Mr Thompson, You're correct: "If that print has a pebble like texture, or a tweed texture to it...you may run into some problems on a flatbed with weird reflections from the lightsource hitting it in the pass."

Yes, print has tweed texture, and I tried to flat bed scan it last night, before seeing your post, and there was an annoying washboard pattern over the print. Therefore scan was unusable. Also, you're right, I suspect the stain damage to the print was due to fingers on it over time and improper storage. Thanks for your excellent advice. Andre

-- Andre Noble (andrenoble@yahoo.com), March 17, 2002.

If that's Kodak Pro Copy you're using--discontinued last year, probably still available though--you might want to check out Kodak's tech sheet on that....that was a great copy film, but worked a little differently than most other films....you could control the contrast of this film through both exposure and development...but it's an ortho film too, so you won't get much out of yellow filters with it...Kodak Commercial Film is just like Ilford Ortho Plus too, only that was discontinued a while back as well.

I will occasionally use a wratten #25 (red) to take out stains with TMX 100, but shoot almost everything on Ortho Plus. The only stuff I don't shoot on it, are prints that have any reds or similar tones in them, that would be lost--like old albumen prints, POP or certain toned images that are predominantly red...TMX 100 and increased contrast in printing usually take care of these...TMX is really good with copywork, because you can alter the contrast easily....push & pull it like you would a regular shot--copywork isn't any different than shooting a landscape or whatever...if the original is flat, underexpose/overdevelop...if it's hot & contrasty--do the opposite. TMX is good for this because sometimes +/- 10%-25% is all you need....

If you have a polaroid back, you can use type 55 to proof this stuff--saves you alot of time if the filters don't work, and you can base exposures of 55 as well...for tungsten light, I open up a half stop of 55 for Ortho Plus (using TMAX RS in a tank)...for daylight (strobe) Ortho Plus matches 55 pretty well.

If the stain is incomplete--not a faded image--shoot it on a panchromatic film like TMX, Plus-X, Delta 100 etc., and use a filter the same color as the stain...but if the overall image has faded or turned yellow-sepia overall, use the 47B blue filters or an Ortho copy film (easier). You can bring detail out of photos so faded away that you don't even see them anymore this way....they don't look "great", but they look better than they did before.

Good luck either way, and if you can find a copy of them, check out Kodak's "Copying and Duplicating in Black & White and Color" or "Conservation of Photography"...everything you'll ever need to know about copywork is in these 2 books....

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), March 18, 2002.

Mr. Thompson, as always, thank you for your highly knowledgeable advice on the matter. There's good info in there for future reference as well.

-- Andre Noble (andrenoble@yahoo.com), March 19, 2002.

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