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Photo Restoration Repairing damaged photos

Rolled up Photos

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  #1  
Old 09-22-2010, 11:23 PM
kmmbkworm kmmbkworm is offline
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Rolled up Photos

Just received an email wanting me to complete "a major restoration on an old B&W, oversized, rolled up for years photograph." Have worked on photos like this in the past but have never found a really satisfactory solution. Sometimes the photo breaks into several pieces before all is said and done. Then we scan the pieces and put them back together. From that point we restore the image. I have not seen the photo yet so don't know on what type of paper the image is printed. If the image has no backing and is just regular photo paper, there is much less of a problem. If the image was mounted on some type of heavier backing and then rolled up, there is always a problem. What I have found that usually works for regular paper is just to unroll it as far as possible, then lay it curl down on a flat surface with a towel over it. Then every couple of days I add another towel to it and eventually, the picture will lay rather flat. But that techniques does take a while. Any suggestions on techniques to soften the rolled up photo first before we work to unroll it? Thank you for any suggestions.
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Old 09-23-2010, 12:35 AM
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Doug Nelson Doug Nelson is offline
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Re: Rolled up Photos

If you have a way of safely (no contact) increasing the humidity of the print, it might unroll easier. Back in my apartment days, I used to put them in my tiny bathroom with the shower on full hot and shut the door. That wouldn't work today in my larger house, but you get the general idea. Just don't let any water droplets contact the image or paper.
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Old 09-23-2010, 08:21 AM
kmmbkworm kmmbkworm is offline
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Re: Rolled up Photos

One of our baths is small so maybe this technique would work in that bath. We have dampened a cloth and rolled the image in the damp cloth. However, that just affects the outer side, does nothing the further you go as you try to unroll the image. Thanks for your suggestion, Doug.
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Old 09-24-2010, 12:19 AM
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Craig Walters Craig Walters is offline
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Re: Rolled up Photos

if i remember right, this is like having two different metals placed together and you add a lot of heat or a lot of cold. the metals react differently and thus contract or expand at different rates. photos tend to do the same thing. you have the actual film layer on the front and paper or other backing on the back. as each side drys they dry at different rates and thus you get cracking because one is holding the other. so, when you try to rehumidify them to uncurl them you run the risk of doing the same thing but with different results, like having the film layer peel off the backing.

but, there's not a good way to rehumidify them and get them to uncurl or 'relax' with any speed, at least that i know of. you want to take some time and increase the moisture content of both sides at a slow pace. this gives one side a chance to stay relatively close in humidity to the other. as i recall, it's the paper that dries out first but also that regains moisture the quickest. and since it's also heavier than the film side, this is the one that tends to create the stress.

i kind of like doug's method. i've also heard of using a steam iron and using that burst of steam you can get with some irons. you 'shoot' it at the picture every once in a while and then leave it sit for a while. i've also heard of folks using a sort of curtained box with light amounts of steam entering the box through holes in the bottom and then venting in the top. you generally dont want to leave the steam applied constantly. you're not out for a soaking. you just want to add like a percent or two at a time and let it relax.

adding weight to get things to uncurl can be dicey. you have to be careful with it. too much, too soon can do more damage than good. but, sometimes it's necessary. you just have to apply it gently and in small amounts. sometimes you can get them to uncurl by just hanging them by one end in a damp room and just let gravity and the moisture do the job. they probably wont uncurl completely that way, but it's often safer than weights.

remember, it took time for the pics to dry and curl. it takes time to reverse this. be gentle and be patient and if in doubt, check with a conservator.
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Old 09-24-2010, 04:37 AM
kmmbkworm kmmbkworm is offline
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Re: Rolled up Photos

Thank you, Kraellin, for the excellent explanation and suggestions. Decided to refer the prospective client to a conservator first. The client lives in south Florida and there are several excellent conservators in that area. We are already into our Christmas rush with clients and just really don't have time to get into this particular task. We have worked on unrolling images in the past. Even if the photo did not break into pieces, cracks developed. Have tried hanging a rolled up photo at one end as suggested but that did not work. I believe a lot depends on the backing of the image, just how long it has been rolled up, and how tight it has been rolled also. What did work best was adding the towels on top of a photo. We started with a light-weight towel then gradually added more over many weeks. Have only used the technique once, but it worked well that time. However, we were not in a rush situation either. Frankly, would rather just avoid the issue if possible. Several clients who brought us rolled images in the past had reached the stage they felt what good was a rolled up photo that no one could see. They were at the point it did not matter to them if the photo cracked or broke into pieces, just wanted us to do the best we could to allow them to view the photo. Have always had excellent results putting the pieces back together, at least so far.
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Old 09-27-2010, 11:57 PM
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Craig Walters Craig Walters is offline
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Re: Rolled up Photos

understood
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