Jim Mathis is a photographer, musician, and writer. He is the owner of Mathis Photography, a photo restoration studio in Overland Park, KS.
Wednesday, May 20, 2020
In order to make my catalog of old photographs more accessible, I have been digitizing and filing my old slides and negatives, the ones I made from about 1965 until 2001 when I switched to digital.
The Kodachrome slides all look just like they did when they came back from Kodak. When I was selling film, the understanding was that Kodachrome gave vivid permanent color, but was picky about exposure and even harder to get good prints. Slides were made to be projected. Color negative film was invented to be easy to print with lots of exposure latitude but was not permanent and faded quickly as did the prints made from it.
Black and white film and prints have always been stable which is one reason fine art photographers gravitated toward black and white. If we wanted our photographs to be enjoyed for generations, we shot black and white. There was no other choice. Kodachrome was hard to print involving inter-negatives and other time-consuming techniques such as dye-transfer. Color negative film was not permanent and not even very good.
Now we are in the digital era and everything has changed. Digital files are as permanent as the medium they are stored on. That may be a long time as in the case of a flash drive or it may be extremely short if they are in a smartphone with a life of only two or three years. The only long-term solution is to make archival prints. Ink on paper is still the most permanent media there is.
Ansel Adams is famous for saying, “The negative is the score, the print is the performance.” I contend that this is still true, especially if we consider that the final “print” might be in a magazine or on a web page. The digital file has replaced the negative.
In the modern era we are able to bring back those faded color prints made from color negatives, repair damaged black and white images, but even more exciting is the fact that we can make prints from Kodachrome slides that are better and more permanent than any processes that were available when Kodachrome was being made. If I had known what advances in photography the digital era would bring, I would have shot more Kodachrome 40 or 50 years ago.
From 1973 until 1996 we owned a custom black and white photo lab dedicated to making the highest quality black and white prints possible. Since 2008, I have turned that dedication to quality to digital imaging, especially restoring old, faded or damaged slides, negatives, and prints.
If you have photographs that need attention, that you want to pass on to future generations, please call. 913-269-6709.