Lead lined photo

AnneL

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Has anyone else ever encountered a photo that was mounted on a sheet of lead? I've never seen anything like it before. A customer brought what appeared to be a standard, pastel enhanced photo of a woman from the late 1800-early 1900s but when I opened it up, the paper had been mounted to a sheet of lead! :eek: The picture had what we thought were ripples in it, now it turns out that it has been "enhanced" to give it a 3d effect. The lead behind her facial features and her chest has been pushed up to make her cheeks, chin and chest protrude.

I thought it was just rippled behind the mat and that once I got it out, it would lay flatter. Now I have to figure out how I'm going put it in the new frame and mat and not have it look funny. Might have to use spacers, I definitely can't flatten her!

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preservator

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This item sounds like quite a challenge, since
lead is one of the most reactive metals around.
It is extremely sensitive to acids. How thick and
heavy is the piece? This affects how it can be
mounted.

Hugh
 

AnneL

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It's pretty thin, less than a 16th of an inch. It probably doesn't weigh more than a pound or two. It's 16x20 in size and going into a 16x20 frame with an oval rag mat over it. The lead rubs off on your hands every time you touch it, so I've been keeping the old cardboard that was in the original frame under it for now just to move it with. I'll get some ragboard under it before I put the frame together, but for now it needs something to support it. The lead bends if you try to pick it up!
 

HB

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Careful Ron!
 

AnneL

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I'm not sure if the lead was put on in Ottawa or not. The frame and mat the photo was in when I got it were from the 1970's. The cardboard on the back had a sticker for a gallery in Ottawa. I don't know if the photo was originally from Canada or not. There is nothing on it to indicate maker.
 

Baer Charlton

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I had a collector once have me frame and or re-frame (as the case was) about 40 of those little suckers...

To accomidate the un-flatness, I matted all with a 600 thread count cotten, wrapped mat, with a 2-ply sink mat behind.

Under the lip of the top mat, I first ran a 1/4 wide strip of rayon batting, then turned the fabric over and glued it to the mat board, instead of the rayon gasket.

They are called Embossed photos.

What the collector told me was that the photo paper was glued to the lead before exposure.
Then the photo is soaked to develop.

While the photo paper is still wet, an embossing ball tool is rubbed against the back to push out the lead and hence the paper too.

They are very cool, and very rare.

His collection was from all over the world. I never saw any others.

As for the lead being very reactive to acid, Hugh. Does that mean a wire from the picture, and a wire from a "no-no" paper mat, running to a picture light would actually provide a permanent "lead-acid" battery picture light"? :D
 

Lance E

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I had one of these things through years ago, I can't remember if I asked on here or not... I do remember getting advice or information from somewhere and gained the impression that they were not uncommon.

In the end we used a 2 ply sink mat (corners and/or mylar strips went through my mind but I can't recall if I used them) and unbuffered rag boards with spacers etc.

The background had been embossed with a number of flowers etc that I can only assume were from leather punches, parts of the face were also pushed out, I believe the customer had collected the "heirloom" from family in Canada!
 

preservator

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If material comes off the lead, when it is handled, that may be oxidized lead, which should
be avoided. Handling it with surgical gloves is
probably a good idea. Cotton might be used to fill
the hollows behind this item and will have to be
housed in a sink, to hold its weight. If conservation quality blotter paper is used to line
the edges of the sink, it should be soft enough
so that it doesn't mar the lead and dense enough
to hold its weight. Lead, as with most metals,
does best when it is dry, but having the photo on
it means that it can not be kept too dry. You can
talk to the owner about keeping it away from moist
parts of the house. Without abundant moisture, and
electrolite, to boot, Baer's battery will not
develop.

Hugh
 

AnneL

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Thanks for all the information. I thought if anyone had ever seen one of these before, it would be someone on the Grumble. In all my years working in photography and doing copy and restoration work, I had never come across even a mention of photos mounted like this.

Baer, do you know how they kept the lead from reacting with the fixer when the photo was developed?

Hugh, thanks for the advise on handling. I didn't use gloves but I did avoid touching it as much as possible. It was rubbing off on everything and I didn't want to get marks on the beige rag mat. If I did touch it, I washed my hands right away.
 

Baer Charlton

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Curious, I never even thought about the fact of the fixer. It is slightly acidic isn't it?

Only thing that developed in the darkroom in highschool was hanky panky....my lab partner was Cherise..... so I don't remember how acidic it was.

But then again, I would wonder if maybe the lead is actually a amalgam with a higher content of zinc, which should stabilize the reaction I would think.

I flunked chemistry too. Kept blowing up the lab...
 

AnneL

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The question about the chemistry was from Gary. He was wondering how they kept the fixer from reacting with the lead since most fixers at that time were acidic. Stop bath is also acidic. Maybe they developed it then put it on the lead while still wet. I might have do some checking to see if I can find any information on the process.
 
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