Defining Archival Standards in Photography

There is a great deal of confusion among photographers and artists, and those who sell and collect art, over exactly what the term “archival” means. Labeling a photographic print archival implies that it has met or exceeded a standard.

What is the standard? Is there one standard for all photographic images: color, black/white, inkjet, and alternative process? Is there a different standard for other, non-photographic prints?

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Art and Craft

This paper addresses two complimentary ideas. First, it is an example of the evolution of a photographic project and the cumulative effect of decisions made along the way. Second, it is an example of critical technical practices and how in-depth knowledge and uncompromising application can lead to a superior result. Taken as a whole, I trust it will illustrate the necessary synergy of the two.

The project examined here was photographed in 1995 using an old 11×14 Folmer & Schwing camera with a 10×12 back, a 14” Goerz Blue Dot Trigor, and 10”x12” Super XX film. I purchased the equipment with the notation of doing alternative process contact prints. It did not suit my shooting needs at the time and sat for many years. When I embarked on this studio project it seemed the perfect choice for the images I wanted to make. Super XX had long since been discontinued but a test proved that my supply, though less than perfect, was usable. Palladio, a manufactured palladium/platinum paper was available at the time and, since my enthusiasm for hand-coating paper had dimmed, it seemed a perfect choice. The paper proved capable of producing beautiful prints. Ultimately, I made a print set for the model and one for me. The project was then put away for a long time, never really resolved to my satisfaction.

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