Toronto. … beginning to fade. A line in the song dedicated to the late Marilyn Monroe called, “Who Killed Norma Jean” sung by Pete Seeger, in answer to the question, “who will soon forget?”. In this age of digital photography, we forget just how easily the old photographs faded, especially when poorly washed after the processing.
In the mid to late 1800s, charlatans abounded in the industry and fading was a common lament by folks who had paid for a “likeness” taken by such an unskilled person.
This original is held in the Toronto Public Library digital archive. Clicking on the icon at left you can see the transformation by George Dunbar using modern day computer technology to increase contrast giving the century plus photo a much punchier contrast.
Mind you some proprietary processes like the chromotype photographs (collected by our journal editor – see Photographic Canadiana vols 31-1, 31-2) do not fade and are as sharp and as full of highlights and deep tones as when first made. Such photos are uncommon and can be easily spotted by the practiced eye.