Thursday, February 16, 2012

Outfoxing Foxing

This week I've traveled back to the late 1930s, journeyed to Townsville, trekked to Papua New Guinea and wandered, a little bit reluctantly, back to the Gold Coast. All of this without leaving home.

No, I haven't been reading books. Well actually I have been reading a book, but that's not how I got to visit all those places. No. I've had a lovely time scanning photos and creating a slide-show for a client. The slide show is to be shown at the celebration of her mother's 75th birthday on Saturday. There were ninety photos in all, capturing moments from her mother's babyhood right up to the present day.

I'm a bit of a nosey parker, so I just love scanning other people's photos.  I get transported to other times and places, just as I do when reading a book. I also get glimpses into their lives and get to share their happiest moments. By the time I've finished the project I feel that I've known them for ever!

Now, anyone who knows me will know that I love old photographs, nearly as much as I love books. Especially those old sepia ones. I've even been tempted to buy antique photos and display them in my own home, even though I don't have the foggiest clue who the subjects are!

Some of my client's photos were 74 years old at least. So it was troubling to see the impact that the ravages of time had had on some of the very old ones, such as this one.

As a scrapbooker I've learned that 'foxing' is one of the most common causes of damage to old photographs, and that photos stored in damp, humid conditions are very susceptible to foxing.  My client's mother grew up in tropical north Queensland where it's hot and extremely humid for 6 months of the year, so it's not surprising that some damage of this nature has occurred.  I also learned that, sadly, foxing can't be repaired on original photos. 

Thank heavens then for the wonders of the digital age!  Computers and software programmes such as Photoshop Elements make it easy to turn back time and magically erase foxing, age spots, creases, discolouration, etc from scanned copies of damaged photographs. 
The scanned image after I'd attacked it with PS Elements
According to Wikipedia there are several theories as to the cause of foxing. One of these is that it's a type of fungal growth. So if you have any photos showing signs of this type of damage my advice is to store them away from your undamaged photos.

Some other things I've learned about keeping photos from sliding down the slippery slope of deterioration are:

*  keep loose prints stored in archival-standard storage
*  store these in a clean, dry area away from potential 
   hazards such as leaking water pipes, etc.
*  when placing photos into albums or scrapbooks make sure
    that the pages are made from acid free and lignin free

Don't you wish it was that easy to keep the human body safe from the ravages of time?

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