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History, Conservation, and Repair The history of photographic prints, and how best to care for and repair them.

Albumin Photos-Color,tone,Tint

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Old 11-17-2001, 06:33 AM
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thomasgeorge thomasgeorge is offline
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Albumin Photos-Color,tone,Tint

The Albumin photo offered many advantages over its predecessor the salt paper print.Chief among them was the clairity,improved tones and glossy surface. One rather obvious problem,however, remained to be solved--untoned prints varied from a rather pronounced reddish brown to brick red, which most photographers found objectionable. Toning, which had been used to improve the appearance of Daguerrotypes since around 1840 and had been used on salt paper prints since approx. 1845 seemed a natural step to try on the albumin photo and so it was. In 1850 it was discovered that washing followed by a toning bath in gold chloride solution followed by fixing and final wash imparted a pleasing bluish black or brownish purple to the finished product. The public and photographic community loved it. However, by the late 1860's another feature of the Albumin print was begging for modification--that of yellowing --especially in the highlight areas. While all albumin photos were of a warm appearance, the yellowing was actually distracting, so, about this time experiments were conducted which focused on mixing the then fairly new analine dyes with the albumen prior to coating on the paper support. Many were tried and out of this the most pleasing were pink,blue and violet. Most Albumin prints from the 1870's on were thusly tinted, however, the dyes proved unstable when exposed to daylight for varying periods of time and proceeded to fade, back came the natural yellow. More experimenting with toner followed and it was found that a gold, followed by a Platinum toner treatment not only helped--it improved image stability of the prints so treated as well. That is where experimentation seems to have stopped as about the 1885 era new methods were evolving utilizing collodian and gelatin and the halide form of silver, all which would in the next decade or so topple Albumin prints from their throne. As was the case with the earlier tintypes,ambrotypes and dageurrotypes, Albumin prints were given added color by skilled and in some cases not so skilled artists, who applied tinting to the prints to add more "snap". The most importiant thing here is that these tints were for the most part obvious but subdued. Soft is perhaps the best description.Thus we arrive at a couple of tips for digital restorers: (1) Slight sepia tone was normal for Albumin photos as was a slight yellowing in the highlight areas and (2) when colorizing aim for obvious but soft colors. (3) because of the toner treatment black-purple to brownish purple shadow areas were the norm. Neutral blacks were a product of the bromide developing out papers and never gained great popularity with either photographers-at-large or the public during this time period. There will be a thread later discussing the printing out vs. developing out papers and their pluses and minuses. The next post will discuss the identification of Albumin prints. Thanks, Tom
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Old 11-17-2001, 01:46 PM
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DJ Dubovsky DJ Dubovsky is offline
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Thanks for the very informative history lesson on Albumin prints. I found it extremely fastinating. It's all new to me so I am eagerly awaiting the next post.
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Old 11-17-2001, 02:17 PM
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jeaniesa jeaniesa is offline
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Tom, this info is fascinating! I printed out your posts to read "later," but started to skim it just "get a feel for it" and couldn't put it down. My only question so far is, "How will I identify one?" Looks like that will be answered in your next installment. -Jeanie
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