Sunday, April 01, 2007

Arsenic and Old Photos

Interesting little piece in the NY Times on photo conservation at the Getty ( someone who often works in photo archives and museums, I find this stuff fascinating - you may not):

The goal of Mr. Stulik and his fellow scientists is to produce, sometime in the next few years, a door-stopping Atlas of Analytical Signatures of Photographic Processes, a chemical characterization of every known (and, until now, some previously unknown) means of making pictures. The other day on the floor in his lab he and an assistant, Art Kaplan, unfurled a partial compendium of their research to date, a Santa’s-list-like paper chart more than a dozen feet long enumerating in small type the materials they had already identified in different types of photos.

The research could have an impact not only in the world of photo conservation — a relatively young practice that got under way seriously only in the 1970s — but also in the practice of authentication. With auction prices for masterwork photographs skyrocketing, definitive evidence that, say, a vintage Lewis W. Hine really is vintage and not a later print can mean a difference of tens of thousands of dollars in its price. (Several years ago Hine collectors were shaken when a number of prints made after he died were passed off as being vintage.)...

“In essence this can start to rewrite the history of photography,” said Grant Romer, director of the advanced residency program in photograph conservation at the George Eastman House in Rochester. “It’s already provoked a sort of crisis in the understanding of what we think we know about some photographs.”

(Picture NYTimes, Note: you may have to log onto the NY Times - Mickey Mouse from CA90210 is always a good start)

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