Freezing Negatives

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by clayne, Jul 22, 2009.

  1. clayne

    clayne Member

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    I've searched around on this and haven't found a lot of information. Is it unheard of? Crazy? No benefit? Microscopic ice crystals forming and splitting film?

    It seems that if we can store unexposed and exposed-but-unprocessed film in the freezer that we should also be able to store negatives in the freezer as well. I'm thinking about archival boxes where things are relatively easy to seal and one probably won't be pulling them out at will. More recent negs being worked on are of course left out.

    Would this offer greater archival benefits than room temperature storage?
     
  2. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Unlikely.

    Ilford don't actually recommend storing unexposed film in a freezer either.

    Ian
     
  3. Martin Reed

    Martin Reed Advertiser Advertiser

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    There's a lot of information about film cold storage in 'The Permanence & Care of Color Photographs' by Wilhelm, and this can be downloaded FOC from the Wilhelm Research site;

    http://www.wilhelm-research.com/book_toc.html

    (80 Mb, be warned!) The benefits of cold storage appear to be enormous, 'just detectable' fading in Kodacolor 11 for example reducing from 6 years at 24° C to a projected 2000 years at -18° C. There's no problem with ice crystals, the water content of the gelatin at about 15% is too small for them to form. Kodak's testing never found any detrimental effects, as long as the film was sealed to stop moisture entering the package.
     
  4. archer

    archer Member

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    Dear Clayne;
    I photographed my grandparents 50th anniversary in 1965, on Kodak Ekatacolor S, probably the worst keeping color film of all time. I always keep my color negs in a freezer at -25. In 2008 I reprinted an anniversary album from those same negatives, as a gift for my aunt and uncles 63rd anniversary and those Ektacolor S negatives were nearly the same as they were in 1965, with just a slight desaturation and a small loss of the yellow and a small magenta shift all of which was easily compensated for in the filter pack. I know that freezing exposed color film definitely preserves it.
    Denise Libby
     
  5. Wade D

    Wade D Member

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    For color freezing the negs might be a benefit but for B&W I really don't think so. My B&W negs are stored in a sealed ammo box with silica gel and go back 40 years. I also have B&W negs that my great grandparents shot in the early 1900's that were stored in a shoe box that print just fine. No degradation noticeable. The silver image is much more permanent than the dyes used in color film. An exception would be Kodachrome. The old slides look as good today as they did when new.
     
  6. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Like Wade I doubt the benefits with B&W, my comments were with regard to B&W negatives.

    Ian
     
  7. Martin Reed

    Martin Reed Advertiser Advertiser

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    Slight diversion, for B&W storage encapsulation, either vacuum or under inert gas may be the best option, although one problem is that the equipment necessary is really only available to institutions. A few years ago I remember Stuart Welch of Conservation by Design encapsulating a large living leaf in this way, and he carried it around for months with no visible decay apparent. However a quick trawl hasn't thrown up much with direct relevance to b&w film, the technology seems quite new and storage of other media is first in line.

    There's some stuff at the bottom of this page about colour prints;
    http://www.conservation-by-design.co.uk/flood.html

    & the Niépce photograph is interesting, although tarmac photography hasn't had much uptake for a while :D
    http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/permanent/wfp/conservation.html
     
  8. clayne

    clayne Member

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    Most of my stuff is B&W. What I don't understand is if we know heat to generally be detrimental, surely sealed (enough) film of all forms should benefit in the freezer I would think? I just can't see the downsides except for the rare chance ice forms.
     
  9. Martin Reed

    Martin Reed Advertiser Advertiser

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    Simply that there's not enough benefit to justify freezing b&w for normal purposes; atmospheric oxidation & proximity to low grade storage materials is the main issue, and that's largely protected with the right sleeving and boxes. Maybe find out how NASA store the spaceflight b&w film material? But to do it properly seems quite an undertaking;

    http://www.archives.gov/preservation/storage/cold-storage-photos.html
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 22, 2009
  10. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    What's the point? Raw (undeveloped) film is unstable. Cold storage slows down the deterioration. Developed film is stable.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 22, 2009
  11. TimVermont

    TimVermont Subscriber

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    Is there value in freezing black and white negatives developed in staining developers (pyrocat, etc.) in order to preserve the dye stain? Has anyone done any work on this?
     
  12. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    What he said.

    Steve
     
  13. Martin Reed

    Martin Reed Advertiser Advertiser

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    I don't know the composition of the dyes produced in staining development, but they seem highly permanent anyway, having viewed collections of Victorian plates that were quite intensely yellow. I doubt that there has ever been research into this.
     
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  15. clayne

    clayne Member

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    Okay then, so how about fungus, oxidization, etc.? Surely these won't be an issue wrapped up and thrown in the freezer, right?
     
  16. Denis K

    Denis K Member

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    Forget about what cold does to film, the best reason to put film in the frig is that you will always know where your film is at.

    And that's a most comforting reason for those of us whose age is greater than the film format we use.

    Denis K
     
  17. wogster

    wogster Member

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    For Black and White, they are good for over 100 years anyway, most of us aren't. Unless you have grandchildren who are big into photography, or a lot of images that would be of interest to a collection or museum, most will probably get tossed anyway. So whether they last 50 years more or 5,000,000 years more, doesn't really matter,

    The other issue of course, freezer real estate is usually very limited, so taking a half a square foot for unused film is usually not unreasonable. Taking up storage for 500 rolls of negatives, well, that's usually a lot harder, unless you have a freezer in the darkroom specifically for photographic use. Then you need to justify the power requirements of such a freezer. A film fridge is different, lots of darkrooms have one, and they have a small freezer compartment for frozen film. Many people (like me) also simply drop their stash of film in the regular freezer, where it doesn't take up much room.
     
  18. clayne

    clayne Member

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    Wog, I have 10 cubic ft. of film in a dedicated chest freezer. Cost is about 30-50$/year. The reason I brought this stuff up is that I'm actually thinking of upgrading the freezer to a larger model and putting as much as I can in there.

    Also, while I don't think my negatives are anything world changing, I would like to do my best to preserve them for myself and others down the line.
     
  19. wogster

    wogster Member

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    10 cubic feet of film? Your supposed to shoot it, not store it! I was more thinking along the line of whats in my own freezer, about 10 rolls, most I ever have is about 15, try not to drop much below 5, now if they had a big sale and I had lots of money, then I might get more.
     
  20. billbretz

    billbretz Member

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  21. clayne

    clayne Member

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    Thanks heaps, Bill. That was a fascinating article in it's own right - but also confirms what I already thought: it's advantageous and safe to freeze negatives, regardless of the emulsion/type/etc.

    I just don't want my negatives to be "grandad's negatives that were really hazy and difficult to scan/capture/hologram/etc." 60 years from now (I'm 32 now).
     
  22. Dirb9

    Dirb9 Member

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    Assuming it is all sleeved and stored in archival materials, is it then advisable to store my negatives in the freezer?
     
  23. Alex Bishop-Thorpe

    Alex Bishop-Thorpe Member

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    I will trade you one cubic foot of the finest icecream for one cubic foot of film.

    I honestly had never considered this at all - it makes sense with dye stability in colour materials, but with black and white I think the benefits are probably still there, but they're not likely something you'll notice in your lifetime. Personally I dont think the future needs to see all of my rubbish exposures - if you wind up being famous, the future will worry about preserving your negatives for you.
     
  24. billbretz

    billbretz Member

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    www.wilhelm-research.com/.../HW_Book_19_of_20_HiRes_v1a.pdf

    Another useful article from the wilhelm site. Deals specifically with cold storage - of color prints, too - in standard home-type fridges.

    One thing to remember about "frost-free" freezers - they have a heat unit that cycles on periodically to remove the frost on the coils, I believe. Might want to stay from that area of the fridge, but obviously food stays ok....
     
  25. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Great minds think alike.

    Steve
     
  26. clayne

    clayne Member

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    Does this ice cream contain a high density of Columbian cocaine aka "sugar?" I might consider it.