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

Plastic photos?

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  #1  
Old 03-28-2002, 10:01 PM
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jeaniesa jeaniesa is offline
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Question Plastic photos?

I've got a couple of photos that appear to be printed on plastic sheeting. Both of them have a stamp on the back:

This is a
KODACHROME ENLARGEMENT
made by
EASTMAN KODAK COMPANY

One is dated Dec 1956; the other Jan 1957.

What exactly is the substance that they're printed on? Like I said, it looks and feels like plastic. One is extremely brittle - feels like it's about to crack into a million pieces. (It does have a couple of cracks in it right now.) Can anyone fill me in on what this is and the best way to care for it? The photos are very faded so that there is almost no details in the faces in the photos and I've restored them as best I can, but I'd like to give the client advice on the originals.

Thanks, Jeanie
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Old 03-28-2002, 11:21 PM
Mike Mike is offline
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In the early 60's I sometimes printed on a plastic material, we used it because next to glass, it had the best size stability of anything we could get our hands on. However it was black and white and very expensive. It also was not a Kodak product.
So how thick is this stuff? Is the stamp on the back done with ink and does the ink rub off easily? Does it smell?
I am wondering if the stuff is decomposing, plastics then are not like plastics now.
Have you tried the Kodak web site, there is a question place there I think.....
Good luck and try to keep us informed, thanks,
Mike
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Old 03-28-2002, 11:32 PM
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One of the photos is color and one is sepia toned - so definitely not restricted to B&W.

So how thick is this stuff?

It feels about the weight of the photo paper I put through my inkjet (9 ml?)

Is the stamp on the back done with ink and does the ink rub off easily?

No

Does it smell?

It's not perceptible to me.

Have you tried the Kodak web site, there is a question place there I think.....

Hadn't thought of that. Thanks!

Jeanie
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Old 03-29-2002, 12:37 PM
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Doug Nelson Doug Nelson is offline
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From a conservation email group I subscribe to:

A direct-positive process, produced on a white safety (acetate) base, until 1961 when they switched to a fiber-base material. These prints are not very permanent. They should be copied. The originals should be kept in a cool dry place and kept in the dark as much as possible.

Luis Nadeau
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Old 03-29-2002, 01:45 PM
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A direct-positive process, produced on a white safety (acetate) base, until 1961 when they switched to a fiber-base material. These prints are not very permanent.

No kidding!!!

Thanks for the info Doug.

Jeanie
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Old 04-05-2002, 02:45 AM
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Jakaleena Jakaleena is offline
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Jeanie,

Do the images appear to be a bit "pearlescent"? It was fairly common around that time to print slides onto Cibachrome material, which has a plastic feel to it.

The modern day equivalent would be something like Duraflex. You could possibly restore the image, output to neg and then have new Duraflex prints made...

If the original ones are in as bad a shape as you indicate they will probably just continue to deteriorate no matter what is done to try and save them. Making quality restored copies is probably your best option.



Jak
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Old 04-05-2002, 10:15 PM
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Jakaleena,

No, I wouldn't describe the material as "pearlescent" - just a glossy white.

For those interested, I contacted Kodak and they suggested I contact the International Museum of Photography (aka George Eastman House). Here is the response I got from the Conservation Department at the museum:

It sounds like you have a Kotavachrome, the professional version of Kodachrome prints. They were made from Kodachrome transparencies - a positive print from a positive transparency - hence the term Direct Positive (no negative was involved). They were introduced in the early 1940's, and were still around in the mid 50's, I believe. They were never very popular.

They are on cellulose acetate base containing white pigment. Over time the acetate becomes very brittle, it can also shrink. As for preservation, keep them cool and dry and out of light. I'd make a good copy if you wish to preserve the image. To keep the image long term, it would need to be kept in cold storage - like a refrigerator or freezer. This will slow deterioration way down, but does limit access.


I thought others might find this interesting - as well as the website of the museum. (I just checked and it's already in the links section.)

Jeanie


Last edited by jeaniesa; 04-06-2002 at 01:17 AM.
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Old 04-06-2002, 07:22 AM
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Ed_L Ed_L is offline
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Very interesting Jeanie. I've never heard of Kotavachrome. Thanks for passing that on.

Ed
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