Photo preservation / blog.
Protecting and preserving old photographs.
- Photographs should not be stored in Attics or garages. Variation in temperature results in cracks in the emulsion.
- Keep photographs out of direct sunlight. All photographs will fade in time if exposed to sunlight.
- It is important not to touch photographs on the emulsion side as oils and acids on the fingers can damage the photographic emulsion.
- Copy/ scan photographs to preserve the image. If the original is lost, at least there is the copy.
- Do not put sticky tape on old photographs. It can be impossible to remove without damage and the glue can also affect the emulsion.
- Avoid laminating old photographs.
- Do not attempt to clean photographs by wiping with a wet sponge. This can cause the emulsion to swell and come away from it’s base.
People often ask me how to go about archiving photographs. This can mean protecting photographs
that are already quite old, for future generations, or simply preserving new ones into the future.
Old photographs have often already survived for many decades, sometimes stored in less than ideal conditions or
carried by family members from place to place.
They have survived as well as they have because they were valued as precious to those concerned and I believe that as long as
someone feels strongly enough in there intrinsic value, they should continue to survive with a common sense approach to their care.
This may sound a bit like wishfull thinking but if an old valued photograph shows signs of deterioration, the
concerned owner will always take action, whether it is to seek the advice of a professional restorer, or to at
least to get copies made.
In my opinion, of more concern are present day photographs. Many of todays images are digital, often
accessible only on a phone or at best stored in the cloud. These are almost like memories themselves,
ephemeral, easily forgotten or lost. Photographs are a visual representation of a
person or event that can be seen and appreciated by more than one person and are best when shared. Once they are gone, they can
never be recovered. The importance of secure storage of these files can not be overstated..
The best photo preservation technique can be simply to have photos framed. This provides an airtight barrier (which protects from silverfish) and moisture. Professional framers today, use archival materials, (but always ask if they do). There is no reason why framed prints should not last for many years. In fact many framed photos brought in to us for copying are over 100 years old and when removed from the frame, are in excellent condition for their age. Often it is possible to restore old frames. Usually this involves cleaning the moulding, replacing the mat and glass and mounting the new, restored photograph.
Alternately, a new moulding can be chosen.
There is a large collection of beautiful mouldings to choose from, appropriate to the age and style of the photograph.
Mould and water damage.
Framed photographs can get moisture damage, resulting in mould, often because the print is in contact with the glass. This can cause the photograph to stick to the glass and be impossible to remove. To avoid further damage, the only answer is to copy and make a new restored print. A mat between the photograph and glass gives separation and stops mould. Mould is also a serious issue as it destroys the emulsion. The best protection is to store photgraphs is a dry place, not in garages or areas of high humidity. Often tropical climates have this problem with photographs.
Colour Print Fading.
It is worth noting that since the 1980’s technology for colour print stability has greatly improved. Prior to this the chemical reactions in colour photographs cause fading within a few decades. This can often be digitally retouched and reproduced back to an acceptable condition. One of the main problems is loss of detail if the fading has gone too far. With modern archival inkjet prints, colour prints should last a lifetime and longer if stored in cool, dry conditions. Original faded colour photographs cannot be successfully restored, only reproduced and restored. Colour transparencies (slides) made before the 1980’s, will fade even if kept in the dark. However they are much less susceptible to fading than prints.
Otherwise known as oxidative-reductive deterioration, this is similar to tarnishing on silverware and is a complex chemical reaction. It can be exacerbated by heat and excessive humidity. Surface cleaning can reduce the effect but you must be very careful!
The best result is obtained by copying with a camera using a polarising filter to reduce flare. This technique cannot be achieved with a scanner.
The state library of victoria has a large collection of historical images that can be downloaded from its website,
These are important as we are rapidly losing much of our architechtural heritage to modern development. Also they provide an important reference for how previous generations lived.
To discuss your photo restoration project, and for a free quote, call-
03 9885 9586 – 0409 175 604