its the dye, silly

colour portrait 1970s/1980s

Toronto. In the days of colour film, it was somewhat common knowledge that colour photos faded badly and didn’t last. 60 years ago it was appropriate to get a mix of colour and B&W prints to commemorate special occasions like weddings.

When I was in Labrador in the late 1950s, I used Ansco colour slide film since, like Ektachrome, it could be processed at home. Over time these slides shifted to a purplish colour as the yellow dyes disappeared. Kodachrome slides fared much better but the processing was far too complex and demanding to do at home.

To make fading matters worse, Kodak had switched to using the notoriously poor amateur  Ektacolor paper for its professional prints. Studios were suddenly sued when their expensive wedding prints faded badly. You can read about the studies in the Wilhelm Institute’s epic book “ThePermanence and Care of Color Photographs: Traditional and Digital Color Prints, Color Negatives, Slides, and Motion Picturespublished in 1993 and long out of print. Henry Wihelm still offers a free download of this milestone 700+ page tomb.

Clicking on the small icon at top left will show the original Ansco ad in the September 3, 1965 issue of LIFE magazine on page 82. Thanks to my friend George Dunbar for this bit of photographic history last century.

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