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Thread: 60 Year Old Negatives - Impressive!

  1. #1

    60 Year Old Negatives - Impressive!

    Recently the curator of one of the galleries I exhibit in asked to if I would be willing to print some 60+ year old negatives. The negatives were shot by a NY City photgrapher in the 1930's and 1940's. The negatives are owned by the daughter and she has asked to exhibit her father's work.

    I agreed to make a number of prints as a favor to my gallery owner.

    I received the negatives today and printed the first two. After making a straight print I noted the dodging and burning needed and made a couple of final prints of each negative.

    I was totally blown away at the ease with which these negatives printed. The tonal range was amazing, the grain looked like small circular gains of sand and had high acutance and were as sharp as I have seen. "Kodak Safety Film" was written on the edges. Not in the meticulous method used today, but in a slightly blurred text that looks like it was burned into the film and showed a bit of flare.

    No other mnarkings wereon the negatives. The density range of the negatives allowed me print with a No. 2.5 filter setting on my enlarger. These are simply amazing negatives. The prints have a translucent glow that usually takes me quite a bit of work to arrive at, but these negatives allowed me to obtain a final fine print after just a few sheets of paper.

    Any old timers out there that can shed some insight into what this film might have been. To give you a better timeframe, one image was the first day opening game when the Dodgers came to Ebbets Field. It may have been 1938.

    Mike

  2. #2
    Whatever David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    60 Year Old Negatives - Impressive!

    Do they have a notch code?

  3. #3

    60 Year Old Negatives - Impressive!

    I'm certainly not an old-timer, but could it be Kodak SS Pan?

  4. #4

    60 Year Old Negatives - Impressive!

    Nope, no notch code.

    Only the words "Kodak Safety Film"

    Mike

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    60 Year Old Negatives - Impressive!

    Michael: What you are seeing may be at least as much a lens issue (simple, uncoated design) as a film issue. Under some conditions with a contrasty subject, some uncoated lenses will produce an extremely localized flare which can be fairly described as a luminescent glow. Also, a negative which is, overall, lower in contrast than you would get with modern multicoated glass may be easier to print, but there are so many variables there that won't qualify as a rule of thumb. Can you post one?

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    60 Year Old Negatives - Impressive!

    What format were the negatives? If they are larger than the ones you're used to, that might play a part. Can you see a color cast, or stain in the negative emulsion? Pyro developers were used widely at that time, and if you're not used to printing negatives developed similarly, that too could play a part. Or, it could be as you suspect, a property of the film itself. Look for a series of dots and/or dashes after Kodak Safety Film, you should be able to identify it by that code.

  7. #7

    60 Year Old Negatives - Impressive!

    The negatives were not developed in pyro. No stain or unusual color.

    They are 4x5, and no I don't believe that flare is playing a part.

    Sheet after sheet has only the same markings "Kodak Safety Film"

    I have been printing and processing negatives since 1968, I have never seen a Kodak b/w film with no notch code or number code.

    Oh well, I suppose the mystery will go on. I wonder if these negs might have been processed in the mystical 777.

    Mike

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    Whatever David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    60 Year Old Negatives - Impressive!

    Pyro strikes me as more of a fine art and portrait studio developer, because it doesn't last long and needs to be mixed fresh for each batch. A sports journalist would more likely have developed in something replenishable in a tank line, I bet. When newspapers were printed in two or three editions a day, there were tales of developing film in hot Dektol and printing wet negs to rush the pictures to press.

  9. #9
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    60 Year Old Negatives - Impressive!

    Hi Michael,

    It was a long time ago, however if I remember right, Kodak's pack film wasn't notch coded. The pack was loaded into it's holder, and eight shots were fired off. Similar to Polaroid pack film. The negatives you are working with probably have an emulsion similar to the emulsion used in Polaroid type 55/PN film today. Panatomic-X? Super XX?

    In those days, Kodak made thick emulsion films, loaded with silver. They are called "old fashioned-type films" today. I'm only speculating, but I'll bet they were souped in well ripened D-76, dipped and dunked in deep tanks.

    The halation within the thick emulsion, in combination with your enlarger's condenser lamphouse, along with that physical re-plating of silver from the well ripened developer, probably accounts for that translucent glow you are seeing.

  10. #10

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    60 Year Old Negatives - Impressive!

    Just a thought--it's probably a duplicate of a nitrate neg made a number of years later. If the original was made on sheet film--not film packs--it's possible that it could have been acetate based safety film as early as the late 30s. But, if it was film pack--it would have been nitrate through the time period you mention. If the neg is in good shape, it could possibly be a dupe neg made onto polyester based film--which came into use later on (50s).

    I've worked with old dupe negs & these can get weird sometimes when the notch codes transfer over wrong, or the neg is contacted in one-step & loses orientation (a common practice is to cut a new notch code, but this only happens like 50% of the time it seems)...the notch codes on most of these dupe films is usually a simple U, but the film might not have had any code on it, like Kodalith. At any rate, you describe the words looking like they were "burned in" and showing "flare"--sounds like a dupe neg...

    The other possibility--worst case scenario--is that the original was shot on Safety Film, and then for whatever reason duped onto nitrate film and carried the Safety Film wording over in the margins, but is in fact a nitrate neg. Sometimes you find negs that say "nitrate" that are in fact dupes onto safety film. I have never seen it the other way, but you never know I guess--can't imagine *why* someone would do this, but people still used the film for 10-15 years knowing it had stability problems, so anything's possible I guess.

    Pack film is thin, but no notch codes--But was nitrate based through 1951 for Kodak. So it wouldn't say "Safety Film" on it if it was the original for the time period you give. If it was a press shot, it could very well have been film-pack that was duped onto safety base some years later. Cut sheets from this time in my experience have been pretty thick and with age, they get distorted as well. Notch codes came in in the mid 20s and most of the old original sheet film negs that I print have had them--even ansco, defender etc. Chances are, if the shot you mention is from 1938 though, that this neg is a duplicate.

    fwiw--they usually recommend that film older than the 1960s be sleeved only in paper because both acetate & nitrate offgasses as it ages. For b&w, you'd use a buffered, acid & lignin free (PAT passed) envelope and put the emulsion side facing away from any seams.... It might be worth trying to find some advice on these from a local archive or maybe a special collection's library.

    Hope this helps. My disclaimer:Opinions expressed in this message may not represent the policy of my agency.E-Mail to and from me, in connection with the transaction of public business, is subject to the North Carolina Public Records Law and may be disclosed to third parties.

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