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Thread: Toning and Permanence

  1. #11

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    Jan 2001
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    Toning and Permanence

    Don't take this the wrong way, but I think you need to put it in perspective. Forget the lab tests and look around you at the prints you've made, how they've been stored & displayed and what has or hasn't worked for *you*.

    Look--there are standards used by archives and museums for storage and the like. they're very tight, strict parameters for temp , humidity control. light exposure, enclosure materials, handling etc. It can get to the teeniest little detail--to the point where you have the thing locked away som nobody will ever see it or use it...

    I work in such a place--not that we have things purposely locked away, but that in reality they are because there's not enough money to actually conserve them or get them displayed in a safe way that won't cause them any potential damage. It's one reason why I like my job--I get to see all this stuff that will probably never be displayed--but at the same time, it gives you a pause. You look at the stuff collected, and ponder the purpose.

    The archivists sometimes say--nothing lasts forever. They say you can't save everything. They'll look at a potential collection and then look at the budgets and look at what they can realistically accept since they'll have to save it to the best of their abilities forever more or less. I've worked on collections that come in and are unpacked once and we document them and then they stored away indefinitely because of lack of money to conserve. They can store them in a way where they stabilize, but they can't treat them to a point where they can be safely displayed. So the photos are all there is really for anyone to see the actual thing.

    It's the same way with prints you make now. Do you want to file them away in an underground vault forever, or actually use them? Do you want to accept the notion that if you actually use them and enjoy them, they'll eventually probably deteriorate despite your best intentions? Do you want to accept the viewing limitations you'll have to impose on them to stretch out their life? Or do you want to just make some photographs and enjoy them?

    Worry about the negs--enjoy the prints while you can. You can worry about this if you like--but if you look at what was considered to be archival practice over the course of the last century, a lot has changed and will continue to do so, yet there are still tons of photographs floating around, and even among the deteriorated ones, many of those can still be enjoyed.

    oh well, my opinions only, not my employers.

  2. #12

    Toning and Permanence

    "Worry about the negs--enjoy the prints while you can."

    That has pretty much been my stance as of late. I've got the scanned neg, or the digital file. These are both stored away. If I need another print in 25 years, I'll just run one off.

  3. #13
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
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    Toning and Permanence

    "Worry about the negs--enjoy the prints while you can."

    I might be more like the dusty traditionalists on this one. My negs represent such an unrealized blueprint of my vision (in most cases) that I think of them more as a sketchbook than as an archivable form of work. So if hubris leads me care about my work's immortality, it's got to be the prints.

    Now that I'm starting to print digitally, this could change. I'll have an archivable file. But preserving ones and zeros is a whole other can of worms ... as much about saving our work from ourselves as from sinister oxidizers.

  4. #14

    Toning and Permanence

    Paul,

    The way I set things up is as folows:

    1) 4000DPI 16bit scan of either the MF or LF neg, or the digital RAW files are saved to CD or DVD.

    2) The final file ready for printing is saved as well. This allows me the options of going back to the original scan, or simply reprinting from the final file.

    For my wedding of portrait work, this allows people to have the coated print they want, behind glass, knowing that if it does fade in 50 years, the original file or neg or working file is available as well. That said, I have prints uncoated, that are exposed to sunlight daily, for quite a few years that appear the same as the coated, stored in box print.

    I think that in most cases, we all worry too much about the longevity issues instead of enjoying our prints!

  5. #15

    Join Date
    Sep 2001
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    40

    Toning and Permanence

    Of course some current papers tone to a beautiful cold tone in Selenium, so I'm sure many photographers will continue to use RST even if it is not having the benefits for image permanence that we supposed it did.

    With my current favorite printing paper (Ilford MG fiber) selenium toning does not produce a significant shift in image color, although it does noticably increase Dmax. I had been toning largely to protect the image. In light of this -- to me -- new information, I am going to stop working with Kodak RST. The benefits of slightly deeper blacks do not outweigh the disadvantages of having to properly dispose of the toxic residue.

    Provided it is still available, I am going to try Agfa Sistan to protect the prints. Does anyone have any information on the actual effectiveness of this product?

  6. #16

    Toning and Permanence

    Aww jeeez......one tries to stay away from these discussions but sometimes the comments are just too much.

    Pt and pd are noble metals and as such far more resistant to corrosion than silver and far longer lasting than pigments.

    I have tried to stay away from this discussion even though I find many flaws in the article. I might not be an expert on conservation, but I am a chemist. One of the glaring errors is the assumption that KRST toner is a mix of sodium sulfite and thiosulfate. Anybody that has used KRST and has gotten a wiff of it knows it contains ammonium. Most likely one of the main ingredients is ammonium thiosulfate. How the ammonium ion affects the thermodinamics and oxidation rate of silver/selenium/ sulfur compounds I have no idea, but I suspect it could be a determining factor. Furthermore, why wasnt a qaulitative analysis done? Any bench chemist worth his/her salt can easily find out the main ingredients in KRST.

    Second, as it was explained in the response, silver ions in a substrate are a "motile" species in the sense that they will intiate a chain reaction when oxidized, but of the damaged prints mentioned there is no data including the most important step in conservation of photographic images which is the fixing and washing steps. It is pointless to argue the merits of selenium toning if one does not know if the prints and/or film were processed correctly, assuming that it was so is foolish.

    Third and most important is the question if the selenium toning was done to completion. The photographer that uses KRST 1+25 or 1+30, puts the print in the toner until he/she sees some slight change and then takes the print out is IMO doing toning for image/color change, not for conservation purposes. From personal expereince I always used KRST 1+2 and have prints that not only were displayed for years in places where the sun hit them at times but where in full room light at night and were then placed in a storage unit for a year exposed to the heat, humidity and cold of Texas weather and still look just like the day they were first printed.

    As DKT says, nothing lasts forever and entropy will always win, but some thing DO last longer than others, lets not use a somewhat lucid response from a knowledgeable person to discredit a stablish process in an effort to elevate another one. In the end THERE ARE pt/pd prints that are more than 100 years old, there are silver prints that are more than 80 years old. I have yet to see an ink jet poster that is more than 10 years old.

  7. #17
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
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    Toning and Permanence

    Jorge, that wasn't an article, it was an extremely generous email in answer to a question. The fact that he didn't outline all the procedures used in all the experiments doesn't mean anything. He did give references to many of the papers that he and his colleagues published; if you want to dig into the nuts and bolts of his assumptions and procedures, you should look there, to the peer reviewed publications.

    Or if you'd like to ask him anything personally, I'd be happy to forward you his email.

    "THERE ARE pt/pd prints that are more than 100 years old, there are silver prints that are more than 80 years old. I have yet to see an ink jet poster that is more than 10 years old."

    Huh? doesn't this have something to do with the age of the mediums? It's true, the safest bet is to use a process that has been around a while. But what if you like the look or the capabilities of a newer medium? I have a cartoon of some cave men ... a couple are standing next to the wall with their charcoal drawings, looking skeptically at their friend who has an easel set up outside, with brushes and paints. One says to the other, "Oh sure, technology has made it faster and more accessible. But is it art?"

  8. #18

    Toning and Permanence

    Poster? I don't recall anyone discussing duotone or offset press work here.

  9. #19

    Toning and Permanence

    Paul,

    It is obvious that this is a response to an inquiery, as I noted in my second paragraph. While it is a well informed opinion by a knowledgeable person we should not take this information as "proof" that selenium does not work as a preservating agent as I suspect it was the purpose of posting this response. Furthermore, as I stated in the other thread, there are two distinct mechanisms both of which are mentioned in the response you posted. The gold chloride example has nothing to do with selenium toning as the mechanism for preservation is totally different. As a matter of fact, if anybody here wanted to tone their prints for maximum durability the best method is to tone in gold, pt or pd, since these chemicals in fact replace the silver in the prints and given their chemical properties it is more likely to last far longer.

    It's true, the safest bet is to use a process that has been around a while. But what if you like the look or the capabilities of a newer medium?

    WHat you do is you take your chances and acknowledge that there is little information, and that whatever information there is, it is only an "indication." You certainly do not try to discredit and existing process, proven to be effective, just so that you can say (as what was said above) "if my prints do not last 25 years it does not matter, I just press the button once more. After all selenium toning does not work either."

    Ultimately, reality has a way to humble even the smartest scientist. As a chemist I found the response well thought out and in some cases with some interesting ideas, as a photographer I know from having selenium toned prints stored in the most horrid conditions that it does work. In addition, from the preservation point of view there are other reasons to tone with selenium or sulfides, namely the toxic effect these chemicals have on fungi and algae. Selenium toned prints are very resistant to these kind of parasites. So you see, from the first time I saw your post I thought it was misleading but chose to stay out of it. It is not until I saw someone trying to lump ink jet posters with silver and pt/pd prints that I decided to speak up, blatant displays of ignorance should not go unchallanged.

  10. #20
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
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    Toning and Permanence

    "Ultimately, reality has a way to humble even the smartest scientist. As a chemist I found the response well thought out and in some cases with some interesting ideas, as a photographer I know from having selenium toned prints stored in the most horrid conditions that it does work"

    The question, of course, is how well and for how long. Anything we can learn empirically from our own work will obviously be limited in time frame. These researchers were studying toners in the interests of posterity. Of course you're right that reality often humbles scientists, and that this research doesn't "prove" anything--proof is not even a term that scientists use, as you know.

    To say that existing process have been proven effective is likewise misleading. The gelatin silver process is barely a century old, and the specific materials and toner formulations we're using today are only years or decades old. We have no proof of anything, and only small scaterings of scientific evidence. The RIT study and others that Douglas cited are the most thorough ones to date, and it's safe to say they make up the preponderance of scientific evidence on the topic. It's hardly the first time that a scientific study contradicted widely held annedotal evidence or conventional wisdom.

    None of this research represents the final word. But for once it gives us a solid body of knowledge to fall back on next time we have to decide what process to bet on.

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