The colour photographs (2007)
creator(s) Heike Koenitz (conservator)

Original print (top), new print (bottom) as exemplified by ’Amazon 5b’

In addition to the central target photograph, the installation comprises the following photographic work: three black-and-white photos of the Paris performance, six black-and-white video stills and 14 stills (5 in black-and-white; 9 in colour) from the Hollywood film ’The Amazons’ (Technicolor, pre-1975). The stills, usually a coloured and a black-and-white picture together, are mounted in a commercially available aluminium frame. The black-and-white prints were manually produced by the artist herself. The nine colour photographs altogether were commercially exposed on Agfacolor paper. In each case RC photo paper in high-gloss finish in 30 x 40 cm format were used.

The film stills were captured in the cinema on a 35 mm colour reversal film (colour slides). They were taken from a slight angle, so the photographed screen and the edges of the picture are not parallel and blurring occurs. The colour prints produced from the colour slides were added to the central elements of the installation in 1975. As can be seen from the company logo and the absence of black-reproduced dust, chromogenically developed colour paper was used for all these colour photographs. During the restoration the artist provided duplicates of the original slides. These duplicates were produced on a colour reversal film Kodak Ektachrome H.S. Film Safe.Ty based on cellulose triacetate.

All the photographs are covered with black passepartout paper which extends about 5 millimetres into the picture. The photos were mounted in the frame with self-adhesive paper strip. The glazing of the frame is partly simple acrylic glass and partly glass. Fibre boards serve as backing.

The black-and-white prints reveal silver mirror, yellow patches and microspots (dotlike deterioration of the photographic silver in certain areas of density) as a typical ageing phenomenon. The colour prints have completely lost their blue content, resulting in a serious colour shift to purple. Colour seepage has caused further blurring. All the prints reveal damage: kinks and cracks, dints, lightened edges, fading, yellowing, finger marks, scratches, deformations and dirt and water ingress on the passepartout.

The black-and-white prints were dry-cleaned with a goat’s hair brush. Since the colouring of the colour photographs has been irretrievably lost, an approximate reconstruction of the original colouring in new prints was decided on. Here recourse was had to the 35 mm colour slides made available by the artist. These slides were presumably not used as a starting point for the prints of the 1970’s; in any case they show regular scratches resulting from film transport which were not on the prints. They reveal a slight shift to blue, probably due to the film material and/or ageing. The slides and prints are also by different manufacturers and thus have different colour reproduction values. Finally, Agfacolor paper is no longer manufactured. For the aforementioned reasons the colour photographs cannot be reconstructed in the same material. To a certain extent the colouring remains hypothetical.

Two different approaches were discussed for reconstruction:
1. New prints of the colour slides on present-day material, without further processing,
2. New prints of the colour slides on present-day material, with a light yellow ground tone to compensate for the intensified white tone in the colour photo paper manufactured today. Well-preserved examples of Agfacolor photo paper from that time (photographs, printed photographs) were available as a reference.

The restorers concerned, the artist and the curator opted for the second method, i.e. as close an approximation of the substitutes to the appearance of the 1970’s as possible.

Reproduction began with the digitalisation of the colour slides in order to be able to better influence the colouring. Scanning was done with a high resolution of 400 dpi with regard to later production in 30 x 40 cm format. The colour depth is 8 bit. A Heidelberg Nexscan F 4100 was used for scanning. The colour correction contained the minimum yellow toning in accordance with the historical masters. Resharpening, contrast change and retouching of scratches were not undertaken. The data are stored on a server, which is regularly maintained and updated. To enable the results to be reproduced at a later time, colour profiles are deposited in the respective files.
The identical file, produced on photo paper by different manufacturers, resulted in uneven definition in the bright areas of the image and so demonstrates the different reproductive properties of photo materials. The prints were assessed with regard to the overall appearance of the installation, particularly the renewal of the arrow flights. It was decided in favour of the better defined variant on Kodak paper.

Reconstruction can only be an approximation and will never be able to completely replace the original colour photographs. However, it is an important means of keeping the art work alive. The colour photographs taken from the installation are being preserved and are thus available for later examination and restoration methods.

The existing glass was replaced with non-reflecting, UV-protective acrylic glass of the type "Gallery UV 100".

The backing cardboard was replaced with acidfree, stable museum cardboard. The black cardboard used hitherto is of an inferior quality the acidically broken down cellulose fibres of which release peroxides which, in combination with climatic fluctuations, can have a damaging effect on the photograph. The photographs were fastened at the upper edge at the back by means of stripes made of Japan paper and wheat starch paste.

Narrow strips of black cardboard on all sides prevent direct contact between the photograph and the glass pane, as the black, paper-thick passepartout is an inadequate spacer.

Information in the exhibition should inform visitors about the use of new prints in order to thematise the transience of the photographic materials used and so guarantee their honest treatment.

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