Friday, March 17, 2017

Chemical damage of photographic prints

Sometimes I receive photos to restore that have suffered from chemical damage and it is one of the reasons why it is so important to capture a digital copy of a photo before it deterioates further. Chemical damage includes a whole range of reactions - two common ones being silvering out and sulphiding.

Silvering out is caused by chemical breakdown of the silver used to form the image in 19th and 20th century photographs.  The silver reacts with atmospheric contaminants such as hydrogen sulphide and peroxides leaving a bluish or green tarnish in the darker areas of the photo....

Scan by Carterworks showing silvering

Sulphiding is where this reaction causes the photo to change from black to brown and create overall fading.

Scan by Carterworks showing sulphiding

Over time these chemical reactions lead to a loss of photographic information or unsightly distortions and marks on the image.   Luckily both these images were captured in time and have been restored by Carterworks.

Restoration by Carterworks

Restoration by Carterworks

The National Gallery of Australia recommends that photos should  be displayed away from direct light, ideally behind UV glass and in temperatures of around 21 degs C and with a relative humidity of 50%.  They also recommend that photos

be mounted and framed or interleaved and stored with archival quality chemically stable acid-free plastics such as polyethylene, polypropylene or polyester. Archival paper products should be neutral pH, unbuffered and lignin, sulphur and peroxide free. One sure way to determine if something is archival quality is to check if the material passes the American National Standards Institute Photographic Activity Test (ANSIPAT) .


In NZ you can get these archival storage materials for you photos and documents from:-

Conservation Supplies (online and in Havelock North)
Port Nicholson Packaging in Wellington

Copyright Carterworks NZ

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Photo manipulation before Photoshop

Below is an example of an albumen carte-de-viste composite print which features in the Graphis Atlas Interesting Picture of the Week. This image was created using a masking technique which has the allowed studio photographer to superimpose a new background around the sitter.

"The photographer created a mask for this negative and for the negative of the sitter then combined the two images during printing. This technique was perfected by Daniel and David Bendann of Baltimore in 1872. Their patented method of compositing portraits with scenery was known as "Bendann Backgrounds." For more information about these types of prints
check out

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A personal ANZAC story

Over the last few years I have scanned  First World War photos, memorabilia and diaries for others. These are very special family items.  Today I want to share my own personal ANZAC story.....

Auckland Public Library Collection
Scanned print from family collection
Like many New Zealanders I had family who went to Gallipoli as young men.  My Grandfather returned, sadly his older brother Guy did not. I was prompted to start research into my Great Uncle's story by a trip my son took to Europe, where he saw Guy's grave at Gallipolli.

My family held papers showing the location of his grave and a photo which I digitized and restored. I found information from the Auckland Museum Cenotaph database and obtained his war records from Archives NZ. My Great Uncle served with the Auckland Mounted Rifles. I found another photo of Guy in the Auckland Public library photographic collection that was similar to our family one.  As this photo was only partially identified, I was able to give the library his details.  

More recently I uncovered additional family information including his First World War diary, which ends the day before his death (less than a month after his landing at Gallipoli) and a Scrapbook of condolence letters and telegrams sent to his family following his death.                                      

I have digitized and produced facsimile copies of both the diary and the condolence book and photos. Digitization has enabled me to share these items within the family. Recently our family shared these at a commemorative service that was held at the local church my Great Uncle and his family belonged to. Following the service, descendants of the original letter writers were a able to view the letters in the scrapbook.  These items have given our family some understanding of the devastating impact that this had on Guy's family back in NZ

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A brief history of Portrait Photography

Recently DigitalRev published an interesting little video which summaries the history of portrait photography in 90 seconds - see the following link:

Friday, December 4, 2015

More on photo editing before Photoshop

In a number of posts I have talked about photo editing in pre-photoshop times.  A recent article in PetaPixel talks about how editing was done - quoting an early photographer...

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Photo manipulation before Photoshop at the Met

A couple of years ago I read a really interesting book called "Faking it: Manipulated photography before photoshop" by Mia Fineman which also was the basis for a Photography exhibition held at the Met. I was reminded about this when I saw a recent post in

"Faking it" describes the art of photographic manipulation before Photoshop and shows that photographic manipulation started very early on in the development of Photography.  

 Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop

Mia talks about seven different types of photo manipulation which are designed to:
1. correct faults in the original photograph and to compensate for the limitations of photography (the example in the article below from PetaPixel falls in this category)
2. create "art" photographs
3. persuade people - for political and ideological reasons
4. amuse and entertain - "novelty" photographs
5. represent images for print
6. create surreal dreamlike images and
7. deliberately change the photographic image (using modern manipulations and composites pre-Photoshop) - she calls - Protoshop....
Its a fascinating read and shows that photographic retouching and manipulation is not new - its a real skill the requires a eye for detail and understanding of proportion, composition and anatomy and patience to re-create reality, its just the tools have changed .....

For those of us who live down-under the Met has put the entire exhibition online at: 

Copyright Carterworks NZ

Friday, February 20, 2015

Why not all scanned images are created equal

Recently I was reading the magazine section of a newspaper and was surprised by the poor quality of some of the images in an article I was reading.  The images were blurred in parts and had lost resolution and information, I suspect due to the fact that they were never scanned properly in the first place, that is, the resolution they were scanned at was not sufficient for publication.

A lot of people think that scanning an image just involves putting it in a scanner and pushing a button - easy-peasy - so why pay someone?

The answer is its not just a matter of having good scanning equipment - its knowing how to get the best out of your equipment, the right settings and the right resolution for the purpose.

Before I scan I analyse the image to gauge things like its detail and also damage.

I ask:

  • What do you want to use your images for?
  • Do you think you might want to print them in the future?

I also consider:
  • What is the best digital format. If they are colour images for example, I want to try and capture as much of the colour as possible
  • If they are damaged.  I want to give people the option of being able to fix them, if not now  - maybe in the future.
Scanning is also about knowing the best format to save your digital images for the future.  So if you have a collection of slides, negatives or photos call me because I can help you with your scanning needs.