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Sunday, 16 January 2011
a Timely Encounter Nineteenth Century Photographs of Japan
photo Felice Beato
Until the mid-20th century, the majority of photography was monochrome (black and white), as was first exemplified by the daguerreotype and later by other photograph types including: calotype, ambrotype, tintype, albumen print and gelatin silver print. In an attempt to create more realistic images, photographers and artists would hand-colour these various types of photographs. Some photographic processes also produced images with an inherent overall colour as, for example, the blue of cyanotypes and photographic processes were altered by various techniques to produce variations in tone swiss painter and printmaker Johann Baptist Isenring used a mixture of gum arabic and pigments to make the first coloured daguerreotype in 1840 or 1841. The coloured powder was fixed on the delicate surface of the daguerreotype by the application of heat. Variations of this technique were patented in England by Richard Beard in 1842 and in France by Étienne Lecchi in 1842 and Léotard de Leuze in 1845. Later, hand-colouring was used with successive photographic innovations, from albumen and gelatin silver prints to lantern slides and transparency photography.
Hand-colouring refers to any of a number of methods of manually adding colour to a black-and-white photograph or other image to heighten its realism. Typically, water-colours, oils and other paints or dyes are applied to the image surface using brushes, fingers, cotton swabs or airbrushes. Some photographic genres, particularly landscapes and portraits, have been more often hand-coloured than others, and hand-coloured photographs have been popular enough that some firms specialised in producing them.
In Japan, where the practice became a respected and refined art form from the 1860s. It is possible that photographer Charles Parker and his artist partner William Parke Andrew were the first to produce such works in Japan, but the first to consistently employ hand-colouring in the country may well have been Felice Beato – possibly at the suggestion of his artist-friend Charles Wirgman. In Beato's studio the refined skills of Japanese watercolourists and woodblock printmakers were successfully applied to European photography, as evidenced in Beato's volume of hand-coloured portraits, Native Types.
Another notable early photographer in Japan to use hand-colouring was Yokoyama Matsusaburō. Yokoyama had trained as a painter and lithographer as well as a photographer, and he took advantage of his extensive repertoire of skills and techniques to create what he called shashin abura-e or "photographic oil paintings", in which the paper support of a photograph was cut away and oil paints then applied to the remaining emulsion.
Later practitioners of hand-colouring in Japan included the firm of Stillfried & Andersen, which acquired Beato's studio in 1877 and hand-coloured many of his negatives in addition to its own. Hand-coloured photographs were also produced by Kusakabe Kimbei, Tamamura Kozaburō, Adolfo Farsari, Uchida Kuichi, Ogawa Kazumasa and others. Many high-quality hand-coloured photographs continued to be made in Japan well into the 20th century.
In general, the preservation of hand-coloured photographs is similar to that of color and monochrome photography. Optimal storage conditions include an environmentally controlled climate with low relative humidity (approximately 30-40% RH), temperatures under 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius), and a low concentration of particulate pollution, such as sulfuric acid, nitric acid, and ozone. The storage area must also be clean and free of pests and mold. Because hand-coloured photographs, like color photographs, are more sensitive to light and UV radiation, storage should be in a dark location.When handling cased photographs such as daguerreotypes, albumen prints, and tintypes, especially ones that have been hand-coloured, caution is required. They are fragile and even minimal efforts to clean them can irreparably damage the image. Hand-coloured cased photographs should be stored horizontally, in a single layer, preferably faced down. Cases can be wrapped with alkaline or buffered tissue paper. If the photograph has become separated from its case, a mat and backing board can be cut from alkaline buffered museum board. The mat is placed between the image and a newly cut glass plate while the backing board supports the image from behind. This "sandwich" is then sealed with Filmoplast tape. Commercial glass cleaners should not be used on new glass plates. Loose hand-coloured tintypes can be placed between mat boards. If bent, no attempt should be made to straighten them as this could cause the emulsion to crack and/or lift
In the United States, many commercially sold, hand-coloured photographs were packaged and framed for retail sale. Early 20th century hand-coloured photographs were often mounted on mat-board, placed behind a glass frame, and backed by wood panel slats, cardboard, or heavy paperboard. A backing sheet was often glued to the back of the mat-board. Unfortunately, the paper products produced and used during the late-19th and early-20th centuries are highly acidic and will cause yellowing, brittling and degradation of hand-coloured photographs. Metallic inclusions in the paper can also oxidize which may be the cause of foxing in paper materials. Wood panel slats will also off-gas causing further degradation of the photographs.Simple conservation of these fragile materials can be carried out by the adventurous amateur. A hand-coloured photograph should be removed from the frame, retaining any original screws or nails holding the frame together. Wood panels, acidic cardboard slats, and acidic backing paper can be removed from the frame and mat-board and discarded, retaining any identifying information such as stamps or writing on the backing paper. The mat-board on which the photograph is mounted, even though acidic in nature, cannot be removed and replaced due to the intrinsic value of this original mounting. Often the artist's signature and the title of the photograph are inscribed on the mat-board. The best preservation method to promote limited degradation is to store the photograph in a dry environment with low temperature, low relative humidity, and low light. The hand-coloured photograph should be replaced in its original frame, held in place with archival quality acid-free paper paperboard, and closed with the original nails or screws.