Thursday, November 8, 2012

Everything new is old again!

It's been said that nothing lasts forever, but wouldn't it be nice if your photographs could? Well, thanks to a blending of modern technology and ancient materials we're getting closer than ever. We're talking about image permanence here; how long will your photograph last before it fades or discolors?

The best test of image permanence is history. In other words, what is the oldest "image" we know of and how was it done? Unfortunately, photography is just not very old. Finding crisp, unfaded photos from 150 years ago is more a matter of luck that methodology. And color photographs? They'll fade in 20 years or less.

But there are images that have survived thousands of years; coal drawings on cave walls, pigments on ancient papyrus, etc. This doesn't really apply to photography, though . . or does it?

Up until about ten years ago the consensus was that the highest level of photographic print permanence could be achieved best via the following method:

Use quality black and white fiber-based silver emulsion printing paper, processed through a slow and precise procedure involving multiple baths of chemicals, then long wash times to remove those chemicals, then even more harsh chemicals to stabilize the remaining silver in the print to slow oxidation, and then more washing. Oh yeah, fun stuff. After all that, the print could be counted on to last a few hundred years before decay and oxidation finally caught up with it.

[This is a print processed using the old, archival, chemical method.]

Then along came digital imaging technology and inkjet printers. For the most part, prints made with early inkjet printers were no better (often worse) than the cheapest color prints from your neighborhood photo lab in terms of image permanence. But a group of dedicated photographers began experimenting with different materials to stretch the technology far beyond what anyone at the time thought possible. One such photographer, Paul Roark, started pitching ideas to third party ink manufacturers to create ink sets for inkjet printers that replaced each color in the printer with a pure carbon pigment. Carbon is about as permanent as you can get. It just doesn't fade unless exposed to high temperature. And by thinning it with demineralized water it can achieve different tones.

[This is an inkjet print using only carbon on pure cotton bond paper.]

When printed on quality, acid-free cotton bond paper you get an image that is literally as good as a cave drawing and maybe even better than the Dead Sea Scrolls!

The future of image permanence is found in the past.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Before & After

I see a lot of historic buildings transformed using preservation tax credits, but rarely have I seen one as dramatic as this! It's taken me a little while to put this post together because I had to go back a ways to find the "before" shots, but it was worth it!

In a previous life this was the Gate City National Bank building in downtown Kansas City. It sat vacant with its original interior partially demolished for years before a new owner with a great idea bought it and began the work of turning it into the Ambassador Hotel; now one of KC's finest boutique hotels.

Rosin Preservation managed the historic tax credit aspects of the project, and you can learn more about it (and them) by clicking their link.

So, lets have a look . .

Here's the view through the foyer into the main lobby, before & after:

And looking back from the other side of the lobby:

Interior side of the doorway from the lobby to the foyer:

This awesome fireplace is now part of one of the finer rooms!

The former basement now has a beautiful ballroom, exercise room and meeting areas.

The original arched foyer ceiling was missing when purchased, but the the new owners replicated it beautifully!

Large open spaces on the upper floors made the conversion to hotel rooms easier, and features like decorative brackets and large windows were retained for guest to enjoy.

It's a wonderful hotel with a top notch restaurant, too. Check it out: 1111 Grand, Kansas City Mo., The Ambassador Hotel.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Architectural Whiplash

In trying to explain to a friend how my day had gone, the term "Architectural whiplash" came to mind. I don't think I've ever photographed two buildings so completely different in the same morning! It was a lot of fun, but a little disorienting.

First I photographed a long-abandoned school before rehab begins, then went straight to a boutique hotel in the final stages of renovation.

Have a look, but be warned! Those prone to seizures may want to skip this entry. All others may require a Hans Device!

Thursday, June 21, 2012


I've been to a lot of hospitals lately. I'm fine, thanks, but I really can't say the same for the hospitals.

My projects seem to come in groups. For a while it was schools. Now it's, well you get it.

When you think of hospitals, what should come to mind are images of clean, sanitary well-lit spaces. But just like any other abandoned building, vandals, water, and temperature will take their toll.

There are three building in this collection, each slated for major rehab made possible by State Historic Tax Credits. The ultimate objectives vary from apartments and office space to senior housing. Despite their outward appearance all these buildings seem structurally sound and well worthy of rehab. Hopefully I'll get to see the finished results in a year or two.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Architecture of my youth . .

Before we moved to Kansas City when I was 10 years old, I attended a brand new grammar school in the suburbs of Huntsville, Alabama. It was a sleek, modern, almost space-age looking building with dirt where grass should be and 5-gallon trees all over. I liked it.

A few weeks ago I went out of town to photograph a very similar school for a National Register of Historic Places nomination. I remember ten years ago people were grousing about 1950's houses now being considered "historic." Well folks, we're into the 60's now and I couldn't be happier about it!

In the 50's and 60's the approach was that new building materials and construction methods should lead to new architectural ideas and designs, (unlike today's "new = cheaper and faster" mantra). Schools were/are a source of civic pride, so it follows that form should meet function along an esthetically pleasing plane.

Yeah, I still like this style of architecture. I'll complain when 70's and 80's buildings becomes "historic!"

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

So what's in Little Rock?

I told people I was going to Little Rock, Arkansas, for a job and the question I always got was, "So, what's in Little Rock?" Fair enough, I suppose.

Well last week, I found out for myself.

I took a trip with Rosin Preservation out to Little Rock to document the Albert Pike Hotel for a historic tax credit application. Pretty routine, except for one thing . . The hotel was spectacular!

Simple enough looking exterior, not unlike those found near the Plaza in KC.

Oh, but inside . .

There was also, well . . weirdness. But maybe I'll get into that another time. Let's just say that some people have different ideas about what constitutes house pets.

So what else is there in Little Rock?

The Clinton Library . .

. . and this nice old railroad bridge converted to a pedestrian walkway across the river to the Clinton Library.

Really nice old homes throughout the city . .

We had dinner and drinks at the Capitol Hotel Bar . .

All this within the constructs of a 1.5-day stay.

There's more, there always is. But hopefully we'll be going back in a few months to see what they've done with the hotel, and I'll post more then.