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
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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