Topics in Photographic Preservation 2011, Volume 14, Article 34 (pp. 205)

Surface Classification for Black and White Prints

Paul Messier, James Coddington, and Lee Ann Daffner

Presented at the 2011 PMG Winter Meeting in Ottawa, Canada

The appearance of a photograph is defined, in part, by surface texture and sheen. Manufacturers of 20th century photographic paper developed their own systems for describing these attributes, often consolidating them into proprietary surface designations. Manufacturer surface designations are useful and interesting but ultimately are of limited use when describing the full range and diversity of silver gelatin papers. To create a shared vocabulary describing surfaces, classification experiments were conducted based on human observations. These subjective groupings were augmented by measurements of gloss and surface texture. This work resulted in the formulation of six archetypal surface categories. Adoption and use of these proposed categories may help conservators, curators, collectors and other allied fields effectively communicate surface attributes when describing silver gelatin photographs.


Paul Messier, LLC


Museum of Modern Art

Papers presented in Topics in Photographic Preservation, Volume Fourteen have not undergone a formal process of peer review.