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Thread: Toning and Permanence

  1. #21

    Toning and Permanence

    "But what if you like the look or the capabilities of a newer medium?"

    I agree Paul. Kirk Gittings has mentioned on another thread how he wishes he'd done all the prints for his recent show using the new Epson and K3 inkset. He likes the color better. And he likes the look of the B&W on matte paper as much or more than his silver output.

    I think we are seeing a shift away from some of the analog processes to the new digital ones. Much in the same way that silver replaced pt/pd prints of old for those who wished to avoid the un-natural brownish to bluish tones. It's good to question the permanence of inkjet prints. Now that much research has been done over the last few years, even if the stated 200-300 years for B&W inkjet behind UV glass is cut in half, I think 100-150 years is still adequate. I see no reason to question the inkjet permanence tests and not those of silver or other methods. This is even more so considering that a lot of the silver and color prints done over the last 50 years show fading as well. This isn't even going into what a lot of color negs look like from the 50-70's.

    In the end, if you've got a beautiful photo, printed with carbon pigment ink, on a high quality paper like Hahnemuhle, you should be good for generations to come.


  2. #22

    Toning and Permanence

    Well Paul, I have said my peace so this will be my last response, but IMO it is less misleading to say "lookee here, I have a selenium toned print that is 60 years old and was stored in the worst conditions and still looks like the first day so selenium toning must be effective" than to say since there are some opinions that selenium toning does not work it really does not matter and my ink jet posters are just like silver or pt/pd prints.......As I keep saying, this is not "new" technology any longer, it is time for those of you making ink jets to stop trying to discredit and/or dumb down previous proecesses to make yours look good. Let your prints speak for themselves in all facets, which includes longevity, as with everything, time will tell.

  3. #23

    Toning and Permanence

    Ken, it was precisely the last paragraph you quoted that lead me to beleive there were some mechanistical problems, but given that I have not read the reference, nor have I any intention to do it I am willing to take this gentleman's word for it but if I understand your confusion correctly I am on the same boat, apparently there is something magical about microfilm, given that printing paper also has some very small particles...... ;-)

  4. #24
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    brooklyn, nyc

    Toning and Permanence

    On the issue of fungus and other biological attacks on prints--this would be a whole other line of inquiry. I believe the RIT studies focussed on oxidation because in their experience most of the damage they'd witnessed came from this source. Likewise, studies that focus on color work meant for display have tended to focus on lightfastness.

    As far as the assumption that inkjet prints should be dismissed as an archival medium, I think there's already a lot of evidence to the contrary. There have been very few color processes that test as well as the most current inkjet pigment inks. In black and white, I've started using quadtone inks that are 100% carbon pigment.

    My silver prints are processed and washed to a high standard, and then toned in both selenium and nelson gold toner (a sulfiding toner that also plates the silver with gold). But if I had to bet on which one will hold up better against oxidation, i'd bet on the inkjets. In the end, silver is silver; carbon is carbon. And with the silver prints, I know little about the paper base itself. With the inkjets, I can print on 100% rag paper that meets all the archival standards.

  5. #25

    Toning and Permanence

    And Paul,

    Carbon on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag is gorgeous. I've used both Quadtone & Carbon on Photo Rag for B&W portraiture shots and I love the results.

  6. #26

    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    Toning and Permanence

    this is long--I apologize. every time I tried to edit it down, it got longer--so forgive me.

    There was a time, well probably the first couple of years in my job when I was more interested in these issues, I guess before I got jaded and cynical (joke) and worn down by reality.... I used to be a fiber based guy---everything was on fiber. Then I started working in a museum, where almost everything was produced on RC, and it puzzled me. . Almost all the other archives and museums were the same way. How could this be? Even the big ones who maintain the recommendations that fiber based prints are better for longevity--and I still believe they are, but that's beside the point I'm trying to make here--even these labs were making RC prints every day. Then, digital came along and you see very similar things going on now. It's not so much a "do as I say" thing--it's just there are different levels of use going on with different priorities. The idea that a print or photograph is used as access is much different than looking at it as an "artifact"--a one of a kind, or an art object. It's more about information in the end, and how to best use technology and media to get it out there.

    The photo dept's are more or less like a commercial studio or lab They're expected to offer services within limited budgets and bound by governing laws It's all done at cost, and I can tell you that if you give someone the whole range of prices for a reproduction--they usually try to go for the cheapest. If there was a need for an "archival" print--they can get one, but they'd have to pay and it's much cheaper to get an RC print or even an inkjet. Just today in fact, someone was nickle & diming us on a 5 dollar print. They wanted to get the "cheapest" print so they could scan it themselves for an enlargement....this is no different than when we made cibachromes and people would balk at paying 15 dollars for a print. They would buy a slide dupe for 90 cents and then they'd complain when a lab wouldn't print it because it had a little copyright sticker on it...yet it was at cost! They won't pay cost for a print off a 4x5 chrome, but would go for a third generation print off a slide dupe thinking they're getting some sort of a "deal". They just don't get it, but then again, most of them don't need it.

    You don't need an "archival" print for publication. You don't need it to hand around and look at. You don't need it to stick on your refrigerator or glue to a page in a scrapbook or stick in magnetic album with PVC pages. Whatever you put in there, or handle with sticky fingers or whatever is gonna get screwed up eventually anyways. You don't need to make "archival" prints for exhibitry either--just make "pretty ones". They're going to hang on a wall, with light hitting them, and the public will be close to them. If you're not in a museum, maybe they're at a gallery opening....with the beautiful people munching cheese straws, sipping wine from a box and running their greasy fingers over the print marveling at the non "plasticky" feel of that genuine archival fiber based print. Maybe you're at an arts festival out on some sidewalk with cars rumbling by spewing out exhaust fumes.... these prints are going to be at risk. Let those be expendable--keep your masters tucked safely away as well as your negs.

    At work--we print with RC for exhbitry and other forms of output as well. It depends on size of print, budget and display time. There are fiber prints--but these are few and far between because the average exhibit is up for 5 years or so, with many only for a year or two. When they come down, they're usually totally recycled for the components and the photos are tossed out. You don't need an archival print to use for a year or two and then throw it away. It just has to last for that time on display, and if it gets messed up, you can replace it.

    Until recently, there have been no claims that an inkjet would be "archival" or that a CD would be either. But NARA now has specs for archiving on CD, and even the Historic Register is going digital and accepting inkjets, digital files and CDs in a program that years ago was similar to HABS/HAER. Times change, and unfortunately we must change with them, or be left behind...

    sorry--I'm just rambling, I can't seem to articulate my thoughts on this. Digital is here now--it's been coming for the past decade, but it's finally here, only the money to change isn't and those of us left doing it the old way, are having to catch up or make do.

    thats' the reality. the thought that there's a "rich institution" looking to collect the average joe' s work is a pipe dream. that rich institution will be a stock agency, not a public one. I think at this point--from my conversations with peers, it has become apparent that those still shooting film and making prints are doing it to keep up with the standards which are now changing, and because they cannot afford to retool as a commercial digital studio with the same quality and actually keep up with the archiving of the files. the money just isn't there.

    4x5 film is still the best in my opinion. it's hard to get that quality anyway else, except in a larger sheet size and the stability is good with little effort compared to other stuff. You would think that this media and infrastructure that is paid for and has been in place for decades and can do the job would be enough--but it's not. it's about the information, get it? when those preservation programs start to go digital--and there're quite a few that have been digital for years already--that's it. You can kick & moan and scream bloody murder about how it's not "archival", but many of them believe there's no definition for the word "archival" either, even when applied to film and prints. The amount of digital information being generated outside in the commercial and public world will eventually become so large, and already probably has if you look at how editorial photo collections have changed in the past decade--that like the national register citing the lack of b/w film availibility and labs--soon the standards will be forced to change.

    It's gonna be digital soon, like it or not. better get used to it.

    fwiw--I use selenium at 1:3 quite a bit, as well as polytoner and sepia. as far as I'm conerned, it seems to work. I have examples of prints with bronzing and redox stains that we've produced--unfortunately--that for whatever reason got screwed up once we sent them out. In some little unscientiific tests, it seems that the toning did indeed help these prints, if they were to be displayed for long periods of time in public areas. Our s.o.p. is basically to replace a print like this, yet when it happens, you want to figure it out and put out a better product.

    my opinions only/not my employers.

  7. #27

    Toning and Permanence

    I think much of the reason why you read little about fungus and other biological problems is that they can be largely controlled by rigid environmental controls - that is, control over humidity, etc.

    The question you raise with respect to paper base is one I found troubling with regard to my gelatin silver prints. Archivalists/conservators are saying that OBA free acid free paper bases are a minimum standard for 'archival', at least according to some sources I've read.

    But I've not seen an OBA free gelatin silver paper in the past decade. Is there a commercially available gelatin silver paper that is actually free of optical brighteners? I doubt it.

    As for the 'relax and enjoy the print while it lasts' suggestions - yes, I agree, BUT. When I sell prints of my images, I feel like I owe the purchasers at least some 'reasonable care' that what I sell them will not degrade in short order. And, in a world where the archival nature of a process is dependent (perhaps) on trace contaminants that are uncontrolled by the manufacturer, who is free to change sources/suppliers/processes/specifications at any time, what does 'reasonable care' look like?

    This is not a problem unique to the gelatin silver world, either. If you print with pt/pd, do you have ANY assurance that there will not be some trace contaminant in the paper or in the reagents you use, which will adversely affect the lifespan of the print? I think not.

    The existence of prints using some similar process and similar materials which have survived for a long time is not any meaningful evidence that prints I make will have similar lifespans, any more than the existence of a living 103 year old man in Kamchatka means that I can expect to live to 103. None of the paper bases used 100 years ago can be purchased today, as a base line example.

    Nor is this a problem confined to the photo world. Textile art and watercolors are examples of media with similar lightfastness/staining/stability problems. I own watercolors that are less than 20 years old, have spent little of that time on display, and yet show noticeable color shifts/fading.

  8. #28

    Toning and Permanence


    Of course people think the pt/pd prints don't age.....they look yellowed right from the start;-)

  9. #29

    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    Toning and Permanence

    for mold and that sort of thing--look at the IPI's climate notebook site, or look at their free software for the "Preservation Calculator". They also have a nifty online tutorial, that shows deterioration examples in different environments.

    try this link:

    the temp & rh is probably a more important factor than all the handwringing about toners, because mold is like a death sentence for photos and negs, and is pretty hard to rectify. from my jaded perspective I'll tell you that it's almost impossible to maintain the standards for the temp/rh in the real world. it's a constant struggle--you have to heat the air to dry it out and then cool it at the same time. it has to be maintained within a less than 5 degree range,within a set range of temperature for specific items. it's like a balancing act...

  10. #30

    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    Toning and Permanence

    paul--hmm....again, not trying to sound flippant here, because I believe you feel strongly about quality assurance on your prints and that's a noble cause in my book. but as the producer-- you *cannot* control the variables of the use once they leave your care if you're selling them....the clients have to uphold their end of the bargain. I'm not saying you shouldn't back up your work--but there's a point where things can and will happen beyond your control, and well--**** happens. . If you fiber base print and tone, there's no reason to worry---hell, even if you RC print and don't tone, there's no reason to worry if your environment is really good. Those properly processed and stored RC prints meet the same standard as the fiber ones, yet there is endless debate on this because the real world is so unpredictable. It's just the uncontrollable variables that cause the problems--and you basically try to hedge your bets by picking a durable, abuse tolerant material to beat the odds. Not many fine-art people would market their work in these terms, but it's the truth as it has played out over the course of time. or at least that's my version.

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