Photograph before and after showing fading of the dyes

What’s this?

  • This before and after image shows the results of displaying photographs obtained from unknown sources.

What’s happened?

  • There are a wide variety of image printing materials on the market today and unfortunately many are unsuitable for permanent display, as shown by the example. It is often impossible to tell by inspection just which pictures are printed using unstable materials.
  • Light has faded the colour dyes used to print this image. The deterioration shown has taken place in just three years of continuous display in a brightly lit club house.

Can the damage be repaired?

  • The original photographs had been sealed onto a timber plaque and were inaccessible. In any case, light fading cannot be reversed.
  • Fortunately the Surf Life Saving Club concerned had the foresight to have the images copied and a digital archive created, to enable easy replacement of any pictures in their collection that suffered fading or damage.

What could have been done instead?

  • Accepting that you may need to reprint photographs after a certain period of time is OK, as long as you have kept digital copies of the images for reprinting.
  • The life of these photographs may have been extended by reducing the light levels in the display area and by choosing different display materials. However, some dyes will fade very quickly, even just by exposure to air.

From Bernard West, Australian Photo Restoration Service.