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Photograph Identification Guide
by David Rudd Cycleback

Chapter 4 : CHROMOGENIC PRINT (C-PRINT): THE MOST COMMON TRUE COLOR PHOTO

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Introduced in the 1930s. Popularly used 1950s to today

Though you may never have heard of the name before, you are familiar with chromogenic prints, commonly known as c-prints, and have owned many. Well over ninety nine percent of color photographs are chromogenic. This includes 8x10" glossies that celebrities autograph, your family snapshots, high school, graduation and wedding photos. When in doubt it's safest to assume a color photo is chromogenic. Chomogenic photos were introduced in the 1930s, though didn't become widely popular until later. Color photos from the 1940s, for example, are limited on the market. Chromogenic photographs are made today, though increasingly photographers are turning to digital photography.

Identifying and judging the age of chromogenic prints
As already noted, when in doubt a color photo is probably chromogenenic. Chromogenic images often fade and discolor with age, sometimes gaining a magenta tone. Vintage examples are on fiber based paper. This means that the back of the photo has a papery, fibery feel, as opposed to the plasticy feel of recent color photos you own. The front (where the image is) of these vintage chromogenic photos are usually glossy. This fibery back with glossy front is unique in color photos to the chromogenic photos.

In 1968 Kodak introduced resin coated paper for color photos. Resin coated paper has that glossy, plasticy feel on back. This means that if a photo with a 1950s image (James Dean, Korean War) is on resin coated paper, it is not vintage. Many modern reprints of both black & white and color photos are identified as the paper is resin-coated. A quick and simple ways to identify many reprints.

The photo paper branding on back often helps date the paper. Paper branding is discussed in chapter 14. Many photo labs that developed the photos printed the date the on back. Many reprints will lack the detail and quality of the original.

Using a black light will help identify many modern photos. Experience handling and enjoying chromogenic photos will help the collector judge age and originality. This includes handling your family photos.

Chromogenic/c-prints prints are most likely to be mistaken for the rarer and more expensive cibachrome color prints, as both have glossy fronts and are often on resin coated paper. The cibachromes almost always have much, much glossier fronts than chromogenics. Cibachromes often have black borders, while chromogenics rarely do. Chromogenics typically have photo paper printing on the back ("Kodak Professional Paper." "Fujicolor Crystal Archives Paper", other), while Cibachromes do not.

Digital prints or color lithographs on photo paper are sometimes mistaken for chromogenic prints. However, the digital and lithographic prints will usually be quickly identified with a strong magnifying glass or microscope, as they will have the fine multi-color dot pattern in the image.

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