Depression Era Slides

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by thuggins, Aug 21, 2010.

  1. thuggins

    thuggins Member

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    Many you may have seen the pictures taken by photographers commissioned by the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information during the '30's and '40's. These are now in the Library of Congress and have recently been made available on the web. These shots are an invaluable historical record, and I'll leave aside the inevitable political commentary of "the government wasting our tax dollars taking a bunch of stupid pictures".

    Instead I'm interested in the technical character of the images. Obviously these were all shot with that newfangled Kodachrome. The color rendition is very different from my experience with Kodachrome. These shots all have a very subdued appearance, almost like a subtle sepia tone over the whole image. There could be several explanations for this:

    1) This was charactaristic of the original Kodachrome formulation
    2) This is an example of Kodachrome aging
    3) This is a result of the scanning process
    4) the world just wasn't as colorful back then

    I'm leaning towards a combination of the first two. Documentation on the effects of Kodachrome aging indicate that the yellow degrades the fastest. This could certainly explain why the images consistently lack a brightness.

    For those who haven't seen them, samples from the collection can be found here:
    http://blogs.denverpost.com/captured/2010/07/26/captured-america-in-color-from-1939-1943/
     
  2. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    This has been posted twice before. Monitors can you merge these threads?
     
  3. juan

    juan Subscriber

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    Perhaps the color is the result of underexposure caused by the very slow speed of early Kodachrome. I got a similar look by deliberately underexposing Kodachrome 64.
    juan
     
  4. Moopheus

    Moopheus Subscriber

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    It was called the Depression for a good reason, you know. Only the rich could afford to have good color. Everybody else, had to go around in a subdued, washed out environment with dark shadows.
     
  5. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    You are right the world switched from black & white to color during the Great Depression but only the rich could afford it. Ask Calvin's dad.

    Also this could happen to you if you are too negative.
     

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  6. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    ^ those are too small to read :sad:
     
  7. erikg

    erikg Member

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    Not all of those pictures were slides, there is sheet film in that collection too. Anyway, the lenses used could be a factor too. Uncoated or single coated would give less contrast. I think the palette of the film was just different too, so option 1.
     
  8. nickrapak

    nickrapak Member

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    They are all from color transparencies, but more people get what a "slide" is vs. a "color transparency".

    I have a feeling that numbers 13-15 have the wrong dates on them. This type of fading is reminiscent of the original dye-bleach Kodachrome process, which ended about 1938. The rest of them have the usual look of old K-11 Kodachromes.
     
  9. photoncatcher

    photoncatcher Member

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    I have well over 300 slides shot by my Dad in the forties. (maybe even earlier) All shot on Kodachrome 1 ASA 10. The colors are a bit subdued, and I think it is just a characteristic of the film. I don't think it has much to do with the ageing of the film since all of theses slides ahve always been stored in slide trays in the dark of a closet.
     
  10. Louis Nargi

    Louis Nargi Member

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    slides

    thanks for the post I had not seen this before.
     
  11. Marco B

    Marco B Member

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    They are also the only ones that seem to have been made using some kind of artificial light source or flash... maybe the color shift in these specific slides is just the consequence of a non-daylight type light source?

    Thanks for pointing out these images. Really enjoyed viewing them :smile:
     
  12. Thingy

    Thingy Member

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    I have a book in my loft dating from 1910 called Spectroscopy, printed in London, England. It gives full instructions about how to build a spectroscope from scratch (as laboratories had to back in those days) AND prepare, expose & develop colour glass plates from a technique devised back in 1906. Luckily Kodak's colour film is and was much easier to process.
     
  13. brian d

    brian d Member

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    If anyone is interested I have a slideshow of color pictures taken in Germany circa '39/'40 in a email.
    I dont know how to get the pictures singled out of the email (not much of a computer guy) but if you want to see them I can forward it to you. Just let me know where to send it.