Latest Info on RC Paper Archival Rating?
I am doing a lot of paper negative large format work right now and have settled on RC paper for the type of results that I am looking for.
Before I jump off the cliff and do a lot of work I am wondering if anyone knows the latest information on how long a properly processed RC paper print/negative is rated for? The idea of properly processed and storage would be defined by the manufacturer in my mind. I've read the Ilford RC datasheet and they obviously cover the proper processing but don't make any meaningful statements on archival timelines for their RC paper. The bottom line is that I don't want to create a bunch of wonderful large format negatives on RC paper and have them not be usable.
Any pointers to research/data on the archival permanence of RC papers would be really appreciated.
Tim, I do not have any answers to your question, but look at it this way. Have you ever seen a properly processed and handled RC print die a natural death? I can only imagine how long it would take for background radiation to degrade the base. Probably a very long time.
Considering the most likely causes of demise, it is arguable that an RC print is the most archival of all types of prints. Water damage during storage is probably the most common end, but at least with RC paper there's a chance you can wash it off and it's okay. Not many platinum prints make it out of a flooded basement or a leaky roof!
I don'T know and I'm also interested in this question!
I'm in a printing Marathon consisting of hundreds of prints, all on FB paper. I'd love to slack and print on RC for a change (less work) but I'm worried of having to restart it all again before I die (you know what I mean?)
I've had some RC prints that went Bronze in record time and yet some others are fine after 10 years. I guess the trick is to keep them in boxes away from light. Blah.
Personally, I can't see how an RC print can be any different to a fibre print archivally.
The emulsion is still on the outer surface, it's just on top of a polypropylene layer on an RC print.
I know there were some problems with early RC papers but that was a long time ago. I think that has all been sorted out now.
Last edited by Steve Smith; 12-14-2011 at 05:58 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Dear Tim Layton,
Steve Smith is correct, the monochrome emulsions are fundamentally the same in terms of archival permanence as long as they are fixed and washed properly. Some products have a carta ( or top coat ) as well but these are very neutral. Added archival longevity is given by 'toning' the print, usually with selenium.
The issues are with the base or 'substrate'. The most stable is a Baryta Fibre Base, that obviously requiries longer washing to ensure the chemical is removed from the substrate, the adhesion between the emulsion and the base ensure very, very long life. With RC the base and the emulsion are likely to have a differential shrinkage rate, and the base of RC is likely to degrade very, very slowy over time.
How long ? I have seen all kinds of tests, but the really telling one is actual evidence.
I have RC prints made in the 70's that are absolutely unchanged, RC in the very early days did have some issues but that was mostly about adhesion and 'airborne' pollutants that affected the surface, causing 'bronzing' ....look at any RC prints in hairdressers from that period!.
I have fibre prints that date to the turn of the last century 1880 to 1920 that are perfect, and they were not toned.
I think Monochrome RC prints will last comfortably last 70 to 100+ years, we are at 40+ now
Monochrome FB prints have already been proven to last 130+ years without any significant degradation.
The key issue, after correct fixing and washing is storage and protection:
To ensure your negatives and prints last you should ensure that they correctly stored and protected and that they are kept in a stable enviroment in relation to temperature and humidity. They should also be protected from direct light and therfore preferably stored in the dark. Much information on experts much more experienced than myself is avialable for you to study.
Simon ILFORD Photo / HARMAN technology Limited :
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With all due respect to Simon and Ilford (and I'm a staunch customer of theirs) I think there have been a number of false alarms (false positives) about the lifetime of RC prints over the years. Have a look at the relevant chapters in Ctein's book at http://ctein.com/booksmpl.htm for his experiences. There may have been some improvements since then, but at the very least I would do a thorough selenium toning or some polysulphide toning to gain a reasonable amount of protection. I use FB paper for almost everything. Even some of them can fade in less than ideal storage conditions, especially warm tone papers like the old Portriga Rapid.
If a picture fades, it's the density of the emulsion fading. I can't see why this should be due to the emulsion being coated onto a plastic base... just like film is.
Thanks everyone for your comments and replies. It sounds like with a proper fixing and washing that I should have a usable paper negative for as long as I personally care which based on my age is about 30 to 40 years or so. Because of this being a paper negative I don't want any tonal changes (increased density, etc) so I am a little hesitate to Selenium tone for the little extra insurance. I will be properly storing them in archival holders in an archival box at a temperature of about 68 degrees. The relative humidity in my storage space runs an average of about 40% throughout the year. Based on these variables I think I should be fine.
According to the Kodak data sheet on toning black and white papers and what little relevant info I found in other sources I am going to run a couple tests this week with a Selenium tone at 1:20 for 5 minutes. My plan is to expose two sheets of RC paper at the same time and then process one normally and the other with Kodak Rapid Selenium Toner as mentioned above. I will scan each print and look at the histogram and see if there is much difference. I expect there to be some type of difference because I don't think two prints are the same with or without toning. I will circle back after my testing.
they say that sistan ( now called AG STAB ) is a toner that helps
keep rc prints to live a long life ...
( and it isn't nearly as toxic as selenium toner )
Last edited by jnanian; 12-14-2011 at 09:08 AM. Click to view previous post history.
This is an interesting thread. I have often wondered how RC or in fact any of the newer emulsions will hold up in time.
My old RC prints from the 70s have a mixed bag of results. Some have yellow stains n blotches, probably due to improper washing and some are just as stunning as the day I made them.
Same is true for my old prints on Portriga and Record Rapid although I have less probematic prints on FB based papers.
That being said; I think based on my experiances, RCs proabably required more careful washing, now realizing this 40 some years later. Otherwise image quality hasn't changed. I still prefer the look of FB over RC but this is personal preference, not a technical issue.
Now back to my concern... I am not concerened with the substrate longevity but more the new emullsions. Paper emulsions have changed considerably with echo friendly efforts to ban certain chemicals, now including developer layers n dyes in VC papers. How well will these images hold up in time? Do paper companies have any testing data on this or is it a "we'll see" atitude with photo paper manufacturers?
I once sent a letter, at the dawn of digital, to the editor of a photo magazine Bruce Barnbaum was writing for, asking this same question. The responce I got.... "I'm sure it'll outlast you" which seemed to say nothing, I lost all respect for new technology of the "I don't care disposable generation." Since digital it seems archival properties have gone the way side to imediate satisfaction for the ADDAH.
Just my 2¢
Anyone can make a Digital print, but only a photographer can make a photograph.