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Posts Tagged ‘photography’

  • contributed by Emily Gainer.

Photographs are amazing!  They bring back memories; they document moments in our lives; they allow us to see people that we’ve never met.  As family treasures, they are invaluable pieces of history.  From an archives perspective, photographs are fragile and easily damaged.

Print photograph and negative.

In this blog, I’ll outline 5 tips for long-term preservation of photographic prints and negatives.

  1. Handling: Oils and dirt from your fingers can damage photographs, especially negatives.  It is recommended that you wear white cotton gloves while handling photographs, but if those aren’t available, handle the photographs along the edges with clean, dry hands.Holding photograph by the edges.
  2. Identifying: The number one rule of preservation is don’t do anything that can’t be undone!  In this vein, don’t write on the back of photographs with a marker or pen.  Write with a pencil on the enclosure (folder, envelope, photo album, box).  Post-it notes are not recommended, even if you put them on the back of your photographs, because they can leave behind a sticky residue. Labeling a folder
  3. Organizing: There are many ways to organize family photographs.  It’s a personal choice, and there is no wrong answer.  When deciding how you want to organize your photographs, consider how they will be stored, accessed, and used.  I would suggest organizing your photographs by year, and then by event within each.  For example, gather all of your 1986 photographs together, and then all of the photos taken at your 1986 birthday party together, and then all of the Christmas 1998 photographs together.  Start again for 1999 and 2000.
  4. Weeding: In the archives profession, we sometimes do weeding, which is the process of identifying and removing unwanted materials from a larger body of materials.  I would urge you to consider weeding your family photographs as well.  For example, you may have duplicate copies when you only need one.  Get rid of those blurry photos!  The photos with someone’s finger over half the frame!  The photos with everyone’s eyes closed!  It might be difficult, but it can make your family preservation efforts more manageable and highlight the “good stuff”. Negatives and photograph prints
  5. Storage: Storing photographs in envelopes, sleeves, albums, and boxes is essential for their long-term preservation.  These enclosures protect against light, dust, air pollutants, and help buffer against changes in temperature and humidity.  Here are storage options:
    1. Paper enclosures help protect from light, as well as support the photographs physically. Paper enclosures include unbuffered file folders, envelopes, and storage boxes. Acid free box
    2. Plastic enclosures might be more appropriate for photographs that will be handled and viewed often.  These three plastics are currently considered acceptable for long-term storage: polyester, polypropylene, and polyethylene.  (Vinyl, PVC, and magnetic photo albums are not recommended. These are recognizable by their oily feel and strong smell.)  Archival product suppliers have options for sleeves and envelopes in various sizes.
    3. Purchasing storage supplies from a trusted archival products supplier is your best bet.  We recommend Gaylord Archival, Hollinger Metal Edge, and University Products.  Materials that are safe for photo storage will be identified with P.A.T. (Photographic Activity Test). Acid free box, folder, and pencil

These tips will hopefully provide a starting point for you to preserve your family photos!  If you want to learn more about photograph preservation, I recommend this free booklet from Gaylord “Guide to Collection Care”.

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-contributed by Rhonda Rinehart.

When “Psychic Killer” was released in 1975, there wasn’t much on the surface to set it apart from other horror movies of the same ilk.  There was violence.  There was gore.  There was sex.  There were victims.  “He freed his mind and body to commit the most sensual and shocking acts imaginable!” promised the movie poster.

Such claims probably don’t mean all that much in the 40-something rearview mirror of Leatherface and Michael Myers but one thing did set “Psychic Killer” apart from other movies and that was The Kirlian Effect.  Based on a 1939 concept developed by Russian inventor Semyon Kirlian that all living things project an energy field, and these energy fields can be photographed, The Kirlian Effect received some attention; at best as a sort of pseudo-psychology and at worst as a complete myth.  The technique developed to capture these energy fields came to be known as Corona Discharge Photography, so named for the electrical discharge brought about by connecting an object to both a photographic plate and a high-voltage electrical source, and snapping a picture of the resulting electro-discharge.  And so Kirlian Photography, as it is also known, was born – and “Psychic Killer” was created in its wake.

Though the movie didn’t quite get it right – turns out the protagonist was astral projecting (a story for another blog) rather than discharging any coronal impulses – Kirlian Photography was indeed the muse for the film’s screenwriter and producer, Mardi Rustam, and, surprisingly, for a handful of psychologists in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

One of those psychologists, Willard Caldwell, was hanging out in a cute little cottage named Kipling Arms, tinkering with his own coronal discharge equipment around the same time that Rustam was conceiving his psychic killer.  While photographing electromagnetic discharges or “auras” of everything from lizards and grasshoppers to vials of his own blood, Caldwell wasn’t just playing a 1970s version of Dr. Frankenstein.

Vial of Willard Caldwell blood.

Willard Caldwell’s left and right frontal lobes.

Willard Caldwell’s hands.

Rather, Caldwell was developing techniques that would come to focus on the effects of magnetic fields upon behavior, schizophrenia, and neuropsychology.  Caldwell worked to incorporate the neuroscience of brain damage and schizophrenia through the use of Kirlian photography into a more serious application, though he did take time to further develop Kirlian photographic techniques for other living things.

Coronal discharge from a grasshopper.

Caldwell’s notes on handling the grasshopper during photography

Biting grasshoppers aside, the applications of Caldwell’s techniques were reported by him in numerous research papers on topics as diverse as cancer and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  Though mostly unpublished, Caldwell’s prolific research did get some academic attention, but Kirlian photography remains an outlier in health and psychological research.

But perhaps Kirlian, Caldwell and Rustam were on to something.  The brain, as we know, is a powerful tool.  It stands to reason that we would want to know more about how it works and how it relates to our being.  How we get there is up to us.  We can make movies or we can do research.  Either way, the result is only part of the journey.

Sketch of Kirlian photographic techniques, by Caldwell.

 

The Willard Caldwell papers are located at the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology at the University of Akron.  View the collection finding aid here: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/archives/ead/OhAkAHA0036.

Photographic equipment Caldwell used in his experimentation is also located at the Cummings Center: http://cdm15960.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15960coll7/id/1713/rec/1

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