Can anyone help identify this photo problem?


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Jun 7, 2004
A new customer moved here from Milwaukee. She had a bunch of hand-tinted photos framed up and when she unpacked them just one photo had "changed." She had them for a few years before moving.

The photo developed a gold speckling with hard lines of gray showing through. I don't know enough about photography to hazard a guess. Here are some pictures. They were black and white photos with hand tinting on the baby's cheeks and bow.


links to more pics:

Sorry about the blurry closeups. My utility camera only has autofocus and it just won't focus.
If this is an actual B&W Print it may be that the print was not properly washed of the printing chemicals at the time it was printed. I have seen B&W prints do this before if they don't get enough wash time.

Paul W.
I agree,it hasn't been washed properly. Prints need atleast 1 hour in continuously recirculating water to avoid a problem like this.

It will get worse over time so you might suggest scanning the image, retouching it and digitally reprinting it archivally on some good Epson Velvet paper.

That is a lovely photograph. I would probably suggest she contact the original photographer. Not just to try to have hers redone or corrected but to make him/her aware of the problem. I see a date of 1997 - so with all the copyright issues involving professional photography, definitely search out the original artist for correction.

That's my suggestion.

This looks to be a form of the Sabbatier (think the spelling is correct) or what is commonly know as a solarization. Now this can be done on purpose, but in this case it is not. Photographers like Man Ray used this technique as well as Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (head of the Weimar Bauhuas movement of the 1920's).

In your case the photograph was most likely not fixed enough. This is a stabalizer to keep the photograph the way it is, if not done for a long enough period it will eventually go all black. Then the wash process is after this to remove the fixer. Most likely due to under fixer or lack or agitation while in the fixer.

Back to the photographer, this is their deal. You did not, nor the customer could have done this.

Yup, it’s residual fixer which hadn’t been completely removed during the wash cycle.
johnny's customer said this photo "changed" recently, so it probably was not that way when packed -- at least not to this noticeable extent.

I'm not a photo specialist, but curious. Could environmental conditions amplify or accelerate this kind of discoloration?

I know high-alkaline buffers in matboards can sometimes react with photographic emulsions, too. Any chance that this could come from chemical migration within the frame package?
If it was stored in an attic, or heat this could speed up the process. Jim does have a good point as well. The pictures are hard to tell, most of the ones I have seen have to do with fixer. Or so I have thought, could be what Jim speaks of?

You guys are the best. Thank you again.

I bet the conditions they were in during packaging and being moved in a truck from Milwaukee to Cleveland provided the right environment for this to take place.
You can also smell a bad print to see if it's chemical related. It sounds weird, but residual fixer smells like nothing else, so you can be sure it will at least smell a little different than the other prints if it is having problems.
Definately contact the photographer, b/c they should know about this issue for sure.
If he doesn't have access to the negetive or a way to reprint, then he should pay for a scan and reprint.. Good luck!