are black and white photographers vain, all this talk about archival image making

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by jnanian, Jan 29, 2016.

  1. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    chemical based black and white photographers are fixated on a lot of things
    from getting beautiful full scale images, to the perfect combination of grain and sharpness and bokeh
    to getting positive vibes from using old and new beautiful cameras that could probably be in a museum somewhere
    but they are also fixated on archival quality of images.
    some say if procesed correctly a black and white fibre ( and maybe rc ) prints can last 500 years.
    unless the images are in a public or private archive or museum why do we care if our photographs are able to last hundreds, or some say close to 1000 years.
    are we vain ? are our photographs that interesting that they will dodge the dumpster and make it to the future ?

    im guilty of some of the things ive mentioned, i like using old junk cameras, i like making photographs i like to make
    and some of them make it to the library of congress or state archives, some of it to a pile on the darkroom shelf,
    even though theyare archival i am not quite sure teh ones on the shelf will dodge teh dumpster.

    why do you make archival photographs ?
     
  2. miha

    miha Member

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    Because I've been told this is the only way. Especially for the last ten years or so. Internet forums etc. I haven't heard of selenium toner before...
     
  3. RobC

    RobC Member

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    becasue inkjet prints in their early days and even now got such a bad reputation for fading very quickly. Then all the testers started doing excelerated ageing tests to determine the expected life of inkjet prints and quoted ink sets and papers as being more or less archival and suddenly archival became a must have marketing term. Prior to ink jets (and the web), archival was a non issue except for a very few enlightened people.
    The web and forums like this make the uninformed paranoid about what they must do. The buying public just don't know anything about what archival means. Not surprising since it doessn't mean anything. There is no standard for what "archival processed print" means within the photography world.
     
  4. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Actually, I think the transience of images is just as valid in aesthetic terms as archival longevity. When I was experimenting with photogenic drawings, I would have liked to have an exhibition of these where they were under light proof covers (I never did this). But the idea was that viewers could lift the cover to view the print and eventually the print would fade away, so each viewer would see the print darker and darker until total image faded away and hence - end of exhibition.
     
  5. blansky

    blansky Member

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    I don't thing archivability is the main focus, although it's a part of the equation.

    It took me a few years to convert to digital until I was reasonably convinced that the prints were archival. I got burned by Kodak in the 70s with color prints.

    To me the number one reason for black and white is the surreal nature of the beast.

    It's reality but it's not. And that to me is its main appeal.

    I shoot digital black and white to match my analog black and white, and very often I'm torn when printing whether to print it in black and white or color. And sometimes I print both.

    I mean really torn. Because they both have a natural appeal to them.

    BUT the black and white always has more gravitas, more timelessness and more arty-ness to it. It transcends color almost every time.

    Except probably when the eyes are better in color. Think of Afghan Woman. Other than that, B&W is king.

    I also think that whatever you do, whether it's warranted or not should be as archival as you can make it.
     
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  6. mr rusty

    mr rusty Member

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    Vain? not sure if that's the right description, but yes, one of the reasons I shoot film is because I think it IS almost the only way to create something that might last 100+ years. I find history fascinating, and just maybe I am making some sort of contribution to a record of now for the future. Digital is undoubtedly transient. It does not exist other than in the form it is captured, which is invisible to the human senses, and held in suspended animation within some device, which requires other devices to render the content understandable. If the suspending device disappears, stops working, corrupts, becomes obsolete, the content goes with it. Whether my images survive won't be down to me, but I suspect that in a digital age, hard copy images will not be discarded as readily as they might have in the past due to their relative rarity, and most likely a high proportion will survive to be looked back on nostalgically in future times.
     
  7. summicron1

    summicron1 Subscriber

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    Because I work in a museum (www.theunionstation.org) and it is a daily discovery, no kidding, how valuable even the most mundane images from the past are when we discover them in the present -- especially if they have identifying information on the back.

    Seriously, there should be a law.

    We get plane jane ordinary images all the time shot 100 years ago that are beyond fascinating now, and they'd have been lost if the photographer had done a lousy job of printing and washing and fixing.

    You should also know that digital storage WILL NOT LAST -- every museum on the planet is going nuts trying to figure out how to archive the images of today since they're mostly digital, requiring software and hardware to read that will not be here in 100 years, guaranteed.

    So, yeah, I print archivaly, although I could show you even regular drug store images from the 1930s that still look like new. It's not ego, it's a prayer to the future. I'm leaving my images to the local university special collections library, and so should you.
     
  8. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    because we like to think they matter and Ansel and co told us to do it that way But You are correct.We should pay more attention to them being worthy of such a long existence before we try to actually achieve it.Some deserve to go to the bin right away
     
  9. Maris

    Maris Member

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    summicron1 has it right. There are no bad 150 year old photographs now. In due course there won't be any bad 1000 year old photographs. From the point of view of the mid to distant future the only pictures documenting our times could be archival photographs.
     
  10. georg16nik

    georg16nik Member

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    Actually, there is a standard for processed photographic materials and couple of related standards e.g. photographic activity test for enclosure materials, etc...
     
  11. aoresteen

    aoresteen Member

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    It's not vanity - it's doing something right. If you print on FB paper you need to get the fixer out of it. That's what we call archival - getting the fixer out of the print. Otherwise, why bother with FB paper?
     
  12. Slixtiesix

    Slixtiesix Subscriber

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    Like Summi said. I could not explain it any better...
     
  13. blockend

    blockend Member

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    It is a time bomb. One can only hope universal readers will have been invented. Hard drives can die in a few years if not used regularly. If an image isn't printed there's no way of knowing whether a file contains great stuff or junk, and if the photographer can't be bothered to index and print their work, no one in the future is going to waste his/her life sifting the stuff.

    The days of commercial enprints, hopefully with the negative kept, will be looked back upon as the most enduring photographically recorded age.
     
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  15. RobC

    RobC Member

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    I think those are from the framing/display industry and are more about the materials used to mount and/or store photographs rather than actual prints themselves.

    Let me ask you directly, what does the standard say the life of an archival print should be without reference to other materials.

    The "Fine Art Trade Guild" in the uk has standards but they mostly relate to display materials how they react with photographs and not the photographs themselves.

    And in reality, providing you've adhered to the basic rules of fixing and washing a print properly, the bigest factor in a print lasting a long time is the environmental conditions its kept in and nothing to do with how well it was processed.
    Hang a print above a heat source such as a radiator or in a room with wild humidity swings such as a kitchen or where direct sunlight gets on it or in a room with an open fire and that prints life will be greatly reduced.
    Or when you expire and your kids clear out the house it gets binned.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 29, 2016
  16. Darkroom317

    Darkroom317 Member

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    The museum I work at (http://www.shilohmuseum.org/) has the same issue. We still do everything with a copy stand and darkroom to make reference prints. Originals are stored in collections, reference prints in the library. I also get to print original negatives including some glass plates from the early 1900s. The future of what format images will arrive in at museums is a major concern.

    Often the librarian/ photo archivist gets excited about images that I don't. My main concern if usually how difficult is going to be to make a good reference print.
     
  17. bsdunek

    bsdunek Subscriber

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    I do the best archival work I can because I sell my photographs. I don't want my name sullied in the years to come because they went bad. Just giving my customers the best I can.
     
  18. OP
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    jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi tony

    actually from what i have read ( on michaelandpaula.com ) you need some fixer in there for it to remain archival. also, if you called kodak in the early 2000s or late 1990s and asked them
    if rc prints are archival they would have told you that their work with the image permanency institute lead them to declare rc prints are as archival or more archival than fiber based prints.
    its not all fb, as much as a lot of people want to believe ...

    clive, i do retina prints for the same reason !
     
  19. Ken Nadvornick

    Ken Nadvornick Member

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    What a beautifully evocative phrase. It also effectively answers the larger general question of why for film in only nine simple words. Really, really well done.

    I may have to start sending you royalty payments to post that in my darkroom...

    :smile:

    Ken
     
  20. wiltw

    wiltw Subscriber

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    Thank you!...this post has just validated all of the digital data storage and retrieval issues that I have been harping about for over a decade now, pointing out the inability to read data on harddrives which have no interface card that plugs into the current batch of motherboards and busses. The fact that our grandkids will never take over the diligence of transferring old data to new media types, even if we do that today ourselves...the loss of images with historical significance, never to be seen by historians and anthropoligists 100 years from now! Most responses are 'no one will care about my images after I die, so it does not matter!"
     
  21. NJH

    NJH Member

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    Not photographic data but work and university research stuff I had on Iomega zip disks for the zip drive I had in an old computer burned me like that. The computer failed so I moved the drive into a newer computer many years later but couldn't get it to work and of course by then everyone had binned off the zip drive technology leaving me with a useless drive and a box of disks I couldn't read. The other problem I have been slightly burned by is repeatedly moving large volumes of not very well structured or indexed data many times over. I don't even know if I have lost stuff that I had 20 years for this reason.
     
  22. Peltigera

    Peltigera Member

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    I don't unless I am making them for sale - customers should be able to expect their purchase to last a significant number of years.

    The pictures I make for myself may or may not last. Once I die, they certainly won't last. I have no illusions as to the value of what I do.

    www.johns-old-cameras.blogspot.co.uk
     
  23. wiltw

    wiltw Subscriber

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    I have shot images of Bill Cosby, Prof Harry Edwards, Mort Sahl, Janis Joplin and the Big Brother & Hold Company. I am in an image with Ronald Reagan, when I became a Commisioned Officer; my mother is in an image with Nancy Reagan at that same event. Any one of those could become of interest to a historian, not for me but for the other folks in the images!

    You do not know that one of your images contains the photo of an infant who would become the 50th president of the US, or the infant who becomes the Premier of the world's 1st Global Confederation of Earth.

    Yes, no illusions, but also no comprehension of those who innocently and unintentionally are within the view of your lens.
     
  24. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    So which one of us is going to hang around for the next thousand years to see if that's how such and such a media will really last? Photography in sum has been around less than 200. Claims about inkjet lasting hundreds of year are really credible aren't they, especially
    since they've only been briefly marketed. Yes there are all kinds of accelerated aging tests which might or might not correctly extrapolate
    into a very few of the multitude of real world variables. Otherwise, marketing itself is based upon generous use of what is termed the
    BS Coefficient. All that being the case, there are still well recognized precedents for making certain photographic media last better, both
    in terms of process, mounting, and display options. For me it's simply a matter of integrity, even though most of my prints will long outlast me. How much longer, or even less long? Might just depend on the next earthquake. Don't bet on anything.
     
  25. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    I agree with Drew about integrity. Also, why spend years ( or decades) honing your skills, spending your money, obsessed with making photographs, if you're going to shortchange the work, by not doing what's required to make it last? At least show your work the respect it should deserve.
     
  26. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    ... because I can, because I want to, because I enjoy doing it, because I would like my prints to last a long time. If I wanted my prints to fade quickly in the sun I would use stink-jet.
     
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