01 April 2007

Preserving Knowledge During Technical Change

This is an interesting article from The New York Times today about the Getty Conservation Institute where chemist Dusan Stulik and the staff is attempting to chronicle the surprisingly varied technical features of pre-digital photography before they get lost in the transition to digital imaging. It is a dimnesion of the history of photography about which I know nearly nothing. But, the work these scientists are doing is not only important for the markets in art photography (in terms, for instance, of assessing historical authenticity of prints); it also bears on recent discussions of the resurgence of Black & White photography. Why? Because, as The Times article notes (and as practitioners are obviously aware) Kodak announced a couple years back that it is discontinuing production of black & white photo paper. (I learned about this decision from a comment by Sebastião Salgado lamenting what will be the technological and economic pressures that will perhaps insure the disappearance of his preferred medium.)

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