Pros and Cons – Nitrate Film Stock

Silent film comedian Mabel Normand directed and starred in the 1914 film “Won in a Closet”. It is the first surviving film she is known to have directed

Toronto. In the late 1950s – early 1960s when I began to take photography seriously, I bought some 6 x 9 cut film stock for a Japanese knock-off of a Graflex I bought new  – the Rittreck  IIa camera.

Decades later, I began sorting out negatives and prints. To my dismay, a sleeve with cut film inside smelled strongly of vinegar – a sure sign of deteriorating nitrate based film. Opening the envelope I saw the emulsion was badly wrinkled and sloughing off the backing material –  off to the garbage it went  before it started burning.

All this came back to me when I read an email from George Dunbar on nitrate film. George included a link to NPR. While nitrate film stock is highly flammable and must be archived and handled in special ways, the clear material offers crisp black and white negatives or crisp contrast and bright colours for colour negatives and transparencies.

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