Do all color prints fade?

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by BetterSense, May 28, 2009.

  1. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

    Messages:
    3,119
    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2008
    Location:
    North Caroli
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I don't mean to sound pessimistic, but since beginning to pay attention to such things, I've come to notice just how often and how badly color prints fade. It seems that a good many, possibly the majority of color prints I see hanging in businesses are faded, usually noticeably, and sometimes conspicuously, usually to an ugly blue.

    Just last week a saw color prints in a research company (the prints were probably 30+ years old), an Arbys (surely not more than 15), a donut shop (wouldn't surprise me if they were 50), and at a University (definitely not more than 10), that all were faded to a blue tint. All were displayed in moderate lighting, to be fair. This makes me pessimistic about working in color and getting common minilab or lightjett'd color prints.

    Is this because these are all cheap prints, or do all color prints do this? I know there is Cibachrome, which I doubt I have ever seen, but what about other processes?. I hear that B&W fiber-based prints should last 100+ years, nobody knows how long B&W RC prints last, but I don't really know about the archival properties of color chemistries or of inkjet printing.
     
  2. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

    Messages:
    25,598
    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2005
    Location:
    Rochester, NY
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    In many places the color images are not analog prints on color photographic papers, but rather are made by a printing shop much the same way as your newspaper is printed. And, they use cheap inks.

    But, to answer your general question, yes, all color prints fade and over the years great progress has been made to stabilze the dyes so that they survive well with heat, humidity and light as well as atmospheric pollutants.

    Today, Ilfochrome, Kodak and Fuji products are reportedly stable for about 100 - 200 years depending on conditions. Digital prints are far less stable, lasting for under 60 years according to curators that I have talked to, and are also subject to image smear which does not take place with any analog paper.

    PE
     
  3. eddym

    eddym Member

    Messages:
    1,927
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2006
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Ron, by "digital prints", are you referring to inkjet prints? Most Kodak and Fuji color papers are now printed by digital minilabs, are they not?
     
  4. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

    Messages:
    25,598
    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2005
    Location:
    Rochester, NY
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I refer to inkjet prints regardless of the type of color fluid used. Yes. I do not refer to any analog material such as Endura or Crystal Archive, nor do I refer to Dye Transfer. I also do not refer to Ilfo/Ciba chromes.

    PE
     
  5. Anon Ymous

    Anon Ymous Member

    Messages:
    1,476
    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2008
    Location:
    Greece
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I have a slightly off topic question as well. I have some color prints from the late sixties. They were always stored in the dark (boxed). They look as if they were printed yesterday. I also have some prints from the eighties and some of them look terribly faded. I assume it was bad processing, as they were never exposed to the light, except when viewing them. The prints from the sixties have a common characteristic: their back side feels like plain paper. Could they be fiber based? Were there any resin coated color paper back then?
     
  6. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

    Messages:
    25,598
    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2005
    Location:
    Rochester, NY
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Ektacolor 20 paper was both FB and RC, but Ektacolor 30, introduced in 1969 was all RC along with its Photofinisher counterpart. Dye stability varied with processing and with version with small ups and downs over the years, but some papers were surprisingly good and others very bad due to atmospheric pollutants and due to wash water among other things.

    It was about the time of Ektacolor Plus that the testing began including pollutants such as CO2 and SO2 which affect the image and also O3.

    PE
     
  7. Anon Ymous

    Anon Ymous Member

    Messages:
    1,476
    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2008
    Location:
    Greece
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Thanks a lot PE.
     
  8. Ektagraphic

    Ektagraphic Member

    Messages:
    2,903
    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2009
    Location:
    Southeastern
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Eventually, I think everything will fade. There are papers that last longer than others.
     
  9. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

    Messages:
    19,795
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2003
    Location:
    local
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    my uncle (2nd cousin 1ce removed in the descendancy for you geneologists )
    had some dye transfers he did in the 50s/60s hanging on his wall
    sunlight, and artificial light ... they were as beautiful as the day he made them .. :wink:
     
  10. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,727
    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2006
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I hear that B&W fiber-based prints should last 100+ years, nobody knows how long B&W RC prints last, but I don't really know about the archival properties of color chemistries or of inkjet printing.[/QUOTE]
    ****
    Cibachrome was once touted as the most stable color process. Ditto for the Polaroid shoot-out-the-front films.

    Archivally-processed and stored fiber prints shall last 100 plus years; not just any fb prints. When I did copywork and restoration, I told people that my copies of their ggparents' wedding pictures from the 18 70s, would last at least as long as their originals.

    Who knows about RC? I, myself, would never consider it for serious work I wish to last. Ditto for color.

    Who knows about the printing inks. Bottom line, if you wish your gg children to see your work, print it on fiber-based photo-paper and process it archivally.

    I have fiber prints I made in the early 1960s. They look fine and they were not archivally processed.
     
  11. voceumana

    voceumana Member

    Messages:
    165
    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2004
    Location:
    USA (Utah)
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    My impression is that color dyes are inherently unstable and will fade eventually, and virtually all color images are based on dyes. I am not stating this as fact, just my impression. Like all artifical red food dyes are carcinogenic--an impression I have, not a fact. Some physical characteristics of a substance go hand-in-hand with other characteristics--you can't have one without the other.

    Ultraviolet light, of course, is the enemy of any color image.

    Black & white silver (or other metal based) images are probably the most permanent images we can make if properly processed. There are photos over 100 years old that are still fine, and some of the prints I made in the 1960's when I started processing black & white are still fine--I knew nothing of "archival" back then, I just fixed and washed the prints properly.

    I think that the black & white silver-based image is one of the reasons I believe black & white silver-based photography will be with us for a long time to come.

    Charlie Strack
     
  12. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

    Messages:
    25,598
    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2005
    Location:
    Rochester, NY
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Free radicals are the problem with dyes. Free radical chain stoppers fix the problem to a great extent. Therefore, a dye stabilized with such an agent (a Vitamin E derivative usually) will stop UV and O3 fade. Also, use of UV absorbers will help fix the UV problem.

    As for carcenogenicity, your impression is wrong. If it were, we would be dying a lot more rapidly of cancers. Azo dyes and the like are quite prevalent everywhere.

    I would be much much more concerned about charcoal grilled meats and cigarette smoke which contain up to hundreds of carcinogens!

    PE
     
  13. Bruce Watson

    Bruce Watson Member

    Messages:
    443
    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2005
    Location:
    Central NC
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    You mean BBQ is bad for you? Who knew? :wink:
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

    Messages:
    25,598
    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2005
    Location:
    Rochester, NY
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Actually, this is true. There are many harmful carcinogens generated by Charcoal, by the lighter fluid and by the burning or charring of the meat by the intense heat.

    These produce a number of carcinogens. I cannot locate any specific papers at this time, but there was considerable uproar about this 10 years ago or thereabouts.

    PE
     
  16. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

    Messages:
    3,119
    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2008
    Location:
    North Caroli
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I know that FB is supposed to last longer but I don't work with it now because I really don't have the facilities. I don't have running water in my darkroom and nowhere to leave prints washing or drying. I guess I don't do anything very seriously now, but I wish RC wasn't a second-rate technology.
     
  17. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

    Messages:
    25,598
    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2005
    Location:
    Rochester, NY
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    There is no proof either way, under real conditions, that today's RC is better or worse than FB. The tests are all simulations so far, as RC is not "old" enough.

    PE
     
  18. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

    Messages:
    3,119
    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2008
    Location:
    North Caroli
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Well there's that, but not only that, I've heard one member on here saying that he had some Foma RC paper (which is what I use right now) "silver out" in as little as a few years. I'm not sure what that looks like but it's pretty worrying.
     
  19. Bruce Watson

    Bruce Watson Member

    Messages:
    443
    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2005
    Location:
    Central NC
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    There's a misconception that what fades prints is UV light. While UV does damage photographic prints, so does visible light. And most businesses are lit beyond all reason.

    Next, the air in most businesses tends to be fairly polluted. This is especially true if it's a food business. Cooking releases all kinds of stuff into the atmosphere. Hardly any of this is good for photographic prints. Ozone in particular will rip into a dye molecule with gusto. So don't hang your prints over the office copier, a notorious Ozone emitter. Or near your electrostatic air cleaner.

    You'll get over your pessimism. At least I got over mine.

    Cheap? No. Dye-based, yes. We probably already have silver gelatin prints that have lasted longer than 100 years (silver gelatin was introduced about 1910 IIRC), I would expect a properly processed and stored silver gelatin print to last about as long as the paper substrate can hold it. Color prints are another story.

    Since you brought up inkjet (it wasn't me, don't blame me, I'm merely responding here), I have to say that pigment inks are perhaps the most long lived of the color processes. I'm thinking that there's a color carbon process that's also pigment, so it's not just inkjets.

    But the pigment inks for inkjets are really less than two decades old. And changing rapidly. It's difficult to get a handle on exactly what they'll do over time.

    To that end, there's ongoing research. Look at CoOL at Stanford, Wilhelm, and a guy in Maryland who's name I can't remember right off who's actually doing testing correctly -- getting fade and delta-e both for all the inks and inks in combination, and older photographic print processes too like RA-4 (at least I seem to recall that he's going to be testing RA-4 and some other processes to get comparisons). A lot of people in the industry think he's got his act together. If I can find his URL I'll append it when I find it -- he's the most interesting of the lot IMHO.
     
  20. tiberiustibz

    tiberiustibz Member

    Messages:
    1,749
    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2007
    Location:
    Tufts Univer
    Shooter:
    35mm
    That's one of those things where you say oh well and continue doing it. That and RA4 printing.

    It's like a race towards death. Which will happen first? Will the image fade or the RC substrate decay into goo? It's like the race of the tortoise and the tortoise with the maimed broken leg.

    Well, I made some RA4 prints way back when I was 15 in 2008 and they haven't faded a bit as far as I can tell. I guess the color was bad to begin with, but that's another issue. :D
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 29, 2009
  21. Bruce Watson

    Bruce Watson Member

    Messages:
    443
    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2005
    Location:
    Central NC
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    I know it's true. I was just pulling your leg. I even put in a winky face to show that!

    On the serious side, not only is grilling meat dangerous from the standpoint of the carcinogens, but also from many other standpoints. A pound of meat on the plate ready to eat is about equal to a pound of Middle Eastern oil. It costs not just transportation oil, but the making of fertilizers, pesticides, the antibiotics and growth hormones they pump into the animals (that you eat, all of which come from oil and natural gas), the styrofoam plate and the plastic wrap the butcher uses, all that. Meat is a surprisingly large contributor to global warming.

    Since I found this out I eat a lot less meat than I used to. Sigh...
     
  22. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

    Messages:
    25,598
    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2005
    Location:
    Rochester, NY
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    There is RC paper and then there is RC paper!

    Many improvements are tied up in patents by the major companies and the smaller companies don't want to pay the royalties.

    OTOH, read Ctein's article on bronzing or silvering out of prints on RC due to overwashing. You have to leave a small amount of hypo in the print for protection. It forms a Silver Sulfide shell on the silver image that protects it from the environment.

    PE
     
  23. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,727
    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2006
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    *****
    Keep you negs safe.
     
  24. Nathan Potter

    Nathan Potter Member

    Messages:
    33
    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2007
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    One of the nasty carcinogens in charred meat is dioxin. Probably not to worry too much for occasional consumption but if you imbibe a lot it's cause for concern.

    My oldest silver print is 1925 (done by my father) but I have a South African print and a print from Norway both done in a studio in 1901 and 1892 respectively. All look very good.

    Nate Potter, Austin TX.
     
  25. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

    Messages:
    3,119
    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2008
    Location:
    North Caroli
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Do you know where I could find it? I tried APUG search.
     
  26. Lukas Werth

    Lukas Werth Member

    Messages:
    266
    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2005
    Location:
    Pakistan
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Just for the record:

    alternative tri-color pigment processes, like gum, carbon, carbro, oil- or bromoil transfer, can all be made with very stable pigments which will not fade, not for a very long time.

    The most stable process of them all might well be the chrysotype which consists of collodial gold. This is, or so it is argued, be Mike Ware for instance, even more sabe than platinum because platinum may act as a catalyzer and induce pollutants in the atmosphere to react with the paper base and embrittle it.

    I thought I'd mention this because permanence means something to me as part of the artistic statement I try to make.