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Wonderful story in New York Times of a recently discovered cache of Robert Capa's negatives from the Spanish Civil War.
google the headline above
Wow! What a discovery. Amazing pics! And they say the negatives look fresh as if they had been made just yesterday. Try this with your 70-year old RAW files...
I wish they could have repaired all his negs from D-Day.
Same feelings here...
I tried to explain the importance of the discovery to my in-laws, I told them that it's like if they found the first edition of the bible..They suggested I might have exagerated a bit..:p
On a more practical level, this article has confirm what I feel about image archivability:
Any stuff important to me i'll shoot on B&W or kodachrome.
That's the way I document my family and I shoot my personal work.
Those are some strong images. It's too bad that he had to work with the slow films of the day. They all have that contrasty look of pushed negatives. I wish that my dad had kept his negatives that he shot with his Retina during W.W. II in India and on the island of Tinian in the Pacific. That's where the B-29's carrying the atom bombs were based. I remember seeing some small B&W prints when I was a kid but even those are long gone.
They deteriorate slowly over time no matter what you do. Just like digital, LOL.
I have a lot of Nitrate film negatives. I am not expecting them to explode like sealed film cans, but I am aware of the slight danger.
They are surely flamable and can explode given the right set of cirumstances. This has happened of course. Yet, in general, I still feel the dangers of nitrate films are greatly exaggerated. I have quite a bit of this stuff from 1939 and the very early 1940s (not that I SHOT it, I'm not THAT old). I tried burning a few scrap pieces once. I expected it to burst into flames. Did not happen. It just burned, slowly, like paper or any other flamable material.
any Capa negatives are a treasure.. this is great news
and this reminds me of a close friend of mine whose grandfather put together a photo album during WWII.. but not just any album.. he was a lab technician in the army (or at least that's my understanding) and personally developed many very famous photos from that timeframe, including the famous raising of the flag at Iwo Jima
her grandfather passed away two years ago, and she is still trying to get possession of his album, and has promised that I would be among the first to see it
And the cellulose nitrate films are still in use?
if not, when did they stop production?
That is not how it burns. It has to be in a sealed container, so that the film gasses.
Here is what kodak says:
Cellulose nitrate base film is relatively unstable. If you store it in large quantities of about 5,000 feet or more and in non approved storage cabinets without proper ventilation, it becomes a fire hazard. Admittedly, it takes a bit of pushing to cause it to burst into flames spontaneously. For example, in one laboratory test, combustion occurred with a decomposing 1,000 foot roll of film only after it was kept at 41°C (106°F) for 17 days tightly encased in a can wrapped in insulation to retain the heat of decomposition. However, even a minor fire can cause major film losses. This example may not be that different from some storage lofts in the summertime that are uninsulated.
Cellulose nitrate decomposition is the villain. It shrinks, even to the point of becoming unusable. Furthermore, as the film breaks down, it gives off nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, and other gases that yellow the film base, yellow and soften gelatin, and oxidize the silver image. Later, the base cockles, becoming very brittle and then sticky. Finally, it disintegrates completely. This inevitable deterioration is usually gradual, but elevated temperatures and humidity speed it greatly.
While it deteriorates, nitrate base film makes a kind of pressure cooker of the film can in which it rests, especially when it's taped closed. If the gases can't escape, heat builds and spontaneous combustion may not be far behind. Therefore, nitrate film must never be closed in.
Escaping toxic gases (powerful oxidizing agents) can attack nearby acetate and polyester base films, so store nitrate films in their own special place and not in a place too heavily concentrated.
The Mitchell and Kenyon collection that was discovered and preserved documenting life in Britain at the turn of the 20th Century was shot on Nitrate stock (hand cranked films).Here is a link that maybe of interest.http://www.bfi.org.uk/features/mk/preservation.html
States that 35mm nitrate film was used until 1951.
I think that the nitrate base was about totally abandoned in the 1940's. First to go was the positive print film used for movie projection because of the intense heat from the carbon arc projectors then in use. There were some serious fires in movie theaters!
I never truly believed those stories about Capas Normandy Landing shots being destroyed so easily.Since reading around the web about Nitrate film has made me realize that the type of film used at that time meant it was very probable.I always wondered why the film we use is called Safety Film.Now I know!Thanks for posting this thread.
Thanks, Fred, for the info from Kodak. Very interesting.
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