When known, the photographer is identified in the caption of each
CFS - Many of the photographs here were taken by Carl F.
Stoneburner (1905-1993) who was born in, and grew up at, Lantz Mills.
These are identified on the date line as "by CFS." He was a physicist and
kept as accurate personal records as he did notes in the laboratory where
he worked (National Bureau of Standards). I trust his notes implicitly.
He recorded subject, date and time of exposure, type of film, chemical
developer or establishment used, f-stop, exposure time, lighting conditions,
lens used, etc. (Aside: Although the time that virtually every picture was
taken is known, these times were generally reported here only if they appeared
These well documented photographs record much about life and family history in his era.
PDS - Photographs so identified on the date line were taken by Carl's
son, Paul (1942- ).
Time ravages film. It is not the stable platform many envision. In fact, it
deteriorates quite dramatically in some instances depending not only on how
it was stored and cared for, but on the very substances it was constructed
of in the first place. I had a number of black & white negatives which
had shrunk and buckled, and to which the silver image was actually no longer
adhering. In an effort to understand what was happening and perhaps find a way
to stop or reverse the process, I contacted a number of preservation experts
in various museums, etc. The best answer,
though not exactly what I wanted to hear, came from the George Eastman House
in Rochester, New York. I present it here for
your edification because the same things may happen to negatives you hold.
Ignoring the physical condition of the film base due to time, several comments
regarding image quality and the effects of time on the dyes should be made here.
First, regarding the black and
white negatives. On many occasions, the same subject was photographed
several times with different exposures to "bracket" exposure to assure
a good picture. With digital enhancement, usually the inferior images
can be made better, and occasionally effectively as good as the best, leaving the
viewer who doesn't know this to wonder why there are multiple pictures
of the same thing. (This web site usually only contains one of these "duplicate" images.)
Color photos present a different problem. Over time, many of the dyes
have faded, different colors at different rates. This results in
pictures with color balance problems which are between difficult and
impossible to correct. In a number of instances one of the (three) dyes had
completely disappeared leaving no image whatsoever in that color channel. What
was left of these images have been converted to black & white. Clearly, it
would have been better to have scanned these images twenty, thirty or more
years ago; but the technology did not then exist.
Of interest is that the oldest pictures have, for the most part, done
an excellent job of retaining their colors and the newest have not yet
deteriorated too much. Those in the middle are the worst. I attribute
this to the way in which the film was processed. In the "olden days"
processors thoroughly washed both negatives and prints of all chemicals.
This resulted in a stable image.
Then some bozo in the photographic industry discovered it possible to
take a processing short-cut and "neutralize" the chemicals instead of
removing them. Both film and prints are routinely "neutralized" these
days and given only a cursory wash. (Why do you think it is that you can
"get your photos in an hour?") The result is chemicals left behind
which do their dirty work over time. When you first get them from the
drug store or wherever, they look great; but look at them again after five
or ten years and the once beautiful pictures range anywhere from
off-color to disappeared.
When you order film returned uncut, it is returned in a roll with a
(hopefully) acid free paper to separate the layers of film and keep them
from sticking to each other. Often, over time, the images on the film
will transfer or ghost onto this paper; a further proof that the film
received inadequate cleaning. One good example of this was roll EC
which transferred quite recognizable images to the separating paper.
When doing the work himself (with 35mm film), Carl always washed both his
film and prints for several hours until completely clean with
the result that both his negatives and prints have withstood the test of
time. I have photos he printed sixty years ago and the images are still
crisp, unfaded black and white. (He never did any color work,
primarily he once told me, because of the critical temperature stability
required for which he had inadequate equipment. And, I have no
evidence that he did his own processing of any of the large format
negatives which were the subject of the
letter to Eastman House.)
Almost without exception, each and every image has been retouched
before being stored. Many rolls required four hours or more of labor to
simply scan and perform preliminary clean-up the images. There are even
several individual pictures upon which a number of hours were lavished to
clean them up because they were deemed to be worth the effort. Retouching
may have involved color correction, dust
and mold removal, scratch touch up, restoration of faded images or
missing image parts, as well as just plain enhancement of the original image.
Paradoxically, some of the worst looking pictures have had the most work
done on them. Some were so underexposed that nothing could be discerned
until scanned and enhanced, at which time something could be seen and
perhaps identified. Conversely, some were very overexposed and again
nothing visible initially; this is a more severe error and, in general,
cannot be satisfactorily salvaged. Several entire rolls are in this
category. And some I made better but not perfect because it was just
too time consuming and I got tired of it.