Nobody you know (the_phred) wrote in urban_decay,
Nobody you know

  • Music:
I know there's been some debate about the relative merits of colour vs black and white going on in the comments side of this community for a while. It's not an argument I want to buy into, except to say that both have a long and honourable history and, when it comes down to it, it's artists' choice.

Similarly digital tinkering, whether small- or large-scale, while I'm not aware of anyone questioning its inclusion in this community, is simply the latest incarnation of a process nearly as old as photography itself: enhancing the image using "darkroom tricks". Whether the darkroom is literal or digital is irrelevant.

Something that all photographers may want to bear in mind, regardless of their chosen medium - black and white, colour, digital or "analogue" - is the permanence of the media.

While it may be odd to introduce such a topic in a community devoted to decay, it's an issue that will effect all of us at some point.

Museums and collectors have been aware since the 1970s that there are archival issues with most colour photography processes: even under the best production and storage conditions, the [industry standard] C-type photograph has a life expectancy in pristine condition of not more than 50 years, beyond which the image will fade quite rapidly, eventually to nothing.

Anyone with access to a photo album dating from the 1970s will have seen this process in action - great if you like orange, not so great if you like anything else.

[There are more permanent colour print processes available, but they are expensive and generally only possible in lab conditions - where the artist is usually forced to forego a certain amount of artistic control.]

Black and white photography is less likely to suffer a similar fate, presuming it has been produced and handled archivally from the get-go, but it should be remembered that most moderm b&w photography, unless you do it yourself or process it through a dedicated lab, is actually just a type-C photograph without the obvious colour.

Digital photography will fare little better in the long term, as digital media is subject not least to the whims of technology, and the true archival nature of many digital storage devices is yet to be tested.

While this probably sounds like a "who gives a fuck?" commentary to many of you, it's worth bearing in mind in the context of your legacy, any potential future income you may derive from your art, and even something as simple as keeping a record of those buildings that are themselves already in the process of decay.

There are no easy cures, but a start has at least been made. If anyone would like more information on either the background or the developments underway, check out the Cesar Foundation For The Visual Arts, wich is coordinating the global search for a solution. Collectors and institutions are driving the search, but it has the potential to resonate all the way down to the average family snapshotter (after all, there's no point taking photos for the future if they have no future), and is something everyone who is serious about photography (in whatever form) should take an interest in.
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