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Thread: Negative decay

  1. #1

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    Negative decay

    Over on rangefinderforum there's a thread about whether you're saving or dumping your negatives. In that thread someone mentioned they have negatives from the 60s in Print File sleeves and they're all just fine. This got me to thinking because I have some Tech Pan negatives from the early 80s that definitely have issues, like maybe mold or bugs or something eating the gelatine. I live in a pretty dry climate but wondered if there are any recipes for anti-fungal, anti-insect rinses/treatments for films (and prints). Perhaps even an extant product; I don't recall ever seeing one.

    s-a
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    ic-racer's Avatar
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    Prints can get damaged and new interpretations are always possible with previously printed negatives. I'd save them all. I don't think there is any 'treatment' for negatives that would obviate the need for a proper storage environment.

    http://www.archives.gov/preservation...parencies.html

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    I live in an extremely hot and humid climate in south Louisiana. As the only serious photographer in the family I get to take care of ALL the family negatives going back to the 1920s. (If I didn't snap them up years ago they would be long gone. Everyone else went digital ten years ago.) Those negatives have endured non-climate controlled late 19th century homes until the family got modern AC in the early 1980s. Even after the installation of central air conditioning you can never really pump all the water out of the air in those old tall ceiling houses. During some times of the year you wake up in the morning and walk out to get the paper, there is water literally streaming down every window and wall of the house in rivulets. In the last three major hurricanes the wooden structure of the house has warped enough to wreck a lot of interior paint jobs, pop some trim planks out of position, jam doors that are ordinarly loose fitting, etc. We have water out the wazoo, but short of actually being submerged in flood water I have found that negatives can be more resiliant than you might expect.

    I once reprinted a bunch of those '20s and '30s 6x9 negs as Christmas presents to the family. A few of them were a little vinegary or shrunken, but most were okay. Maybe 10-20% of the negatives sustained a degree of damage. When I found them they were mostly in yellowed paper sleeves from the original drugstore that developed them. The first thing I did was separate the negatives and file them in the acid free sleeves. I organized them by format and film type, and within those categories I subdivided them by date.

    If you see that a negative or page of negatives is breaking down, segregate it from the rest. I have read that they can outgas and spread the rot.

    My main strategy for preventing mold on the negatives and on all my lenses is regular examination in sunlight. Besides trying to keep the file binders in a cool, clean, relatively dry place, putting eyes on the material from time to time gives me confidence. Mark a date on your calender every year to sit in the sun and look at your oldest negatives. I'm sure you have too many to do them all in a day, but the oldest couple of volumes of the bunch. Maybe rotate volumes. A bit of sunlight and stirring of fresh air with a casual visual inspection. If something starts to go wrong you'll catch it early. A lot of pleasant memories too. A long time ago I read a National Geographic story about a native tribe that regularly recites the names of everyone in the family tree to maintain their spirits. I found that idea vaguely appealing. I'm also always wary of chemical treatments beyond the essentials of processing, it's a minimalist, inexpensive approach.
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    fotch's Avatar
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    Have family negatives from the thirties? and mine from the fifties, no problems. Chicago area.
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    Good Morning,

    I just finished doing the same thing with old family photos that Aristotle did, except that the old negatives I printed are primarily from film I shot in the 1960's and 1970's. Most are MF Tri-X and Plus -X. They have not been stored in any special way, although they have been in household AC rather than typical St. Louis-area summer conditions for at least a portion of their lives. I could detect no sign of any deterioration; the same is true of the accompanying contact sheets printed mostly on Kodabrome RC paper. I have also inherited some other family photos and negatives which are a lot older, some from almost 100 years ago. Most of the prints, especially formal studio shots, are in virtually perfect condition and gave me excellent copy negatives. I hesitate to print from some of the old amateur negatives, because I think they are on nitrate-base film, and I fear that heat from my condenser enlarger might result in a nasty surprise! Those I have stored in the refrigerator for safety's sake.

    Konical

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    Diapositivo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by semi-ambivalent View Post
    Over on rangefinderforum there's a thread about whether you're saving or dumping your negatives. In that thread someone mentioned they have negatives from the 60s in Print File sleeves and they're all just fine. This got me to thinking because I have some Tech Pan negatives from the early 80s that definitely have issues, like maybe mold or bugs or something eating the gelatine. I live in a pretty dry climate but wondered if there are any recipes for anti-fungal, anti-insect rinses/treatments for films (and prints). Perhaps even an extant product; I don't recall ever seeing one.

    s-a
    Maybe rinsing again the negatives in an old-style E-6 stabilizer, containing formaline, would solve your problem for some more decades.

    Avoid "new style" E-6 "final rinse" baths as they don't contain formaline. Formaline is a toxic substance so stabilizer containing formaline should mention it in the label.
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    Kodak used to have a formula for a film treatment that included a fungicide. But it was a really nasty dangerous ingredient, and that formula isn't published anymore.

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Shriver View Post
    Kodak used to have a formula for a film treatment that included a fungicide. But it was a really nasty dangerous ingredient, and that formula isn't published anymore.
    Why, I wonder? Maybe it preserved the negs but killed the photographers

    pentaxuser

  9. #9
    Sirius Glass's Avatar
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    Gee all my relatives used to throw them in a shoe box that they kept under the bed. Other than dust, they never seemed to have any problems. But back then the air was clean and words were dirty.
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    Athiril's Avatar
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    Mirasol 2000 has a anti-fungal and anit-bacterial agent.

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