Extreme Fading: Why C-Prints Don’t Last

This is not my image or an image I printed. This is one of a series of prints hanging in the Atlanta Airport walkway between terminals. I’m posting it because it teaches two important lessons.

First, when lighting exhibits the light should evenly cover the entire print and not be focused on three tiny spots.

Second, for public exhibits that will be lit 24hrs/day use light fast materials like a pigment ink print with UV protective coating or glass to avoid extreme fading. IMG_1451

This is a traditional c-print and under this poor lighting you can see that not only has it faded badly, but unevenly because of the poor lighting. The fading is hard to interpret from this iphone capture. I inspected it closely and noted that the print had faded overall becoming desaturated and red. In the areas where the spot lights were focused the image all but disappeared. Around the area that the spotlights hit the print only a light cyan ghost of the image remained.

What bothers me most about this is that the photographer had great shots that I imagine took considerable effort.  And they must be excited that thousands of people walk by the images every day. As I watched for a few minutes a good portion of the passerby’s took notice and even stopped to look. I don’t know how long these prints have been up, can’t be more than a year or two, but they need to be changed out with archival prints and lit properly!

3 responses to “Extreme Fading: Why C-Prints Don’t Last

  1. Pingback: C-Print, Bad Lighting = Junk — Kristy May | New York City and Brooklyn Family Photographer·

  2. there is no archival color process in photography, they are all going to fade, the so called epson pigments have nothing to do with the traditional pigments used by painters, they are basically dyes on steroids and they are not archival neither stable

    • Hi Federico,

      The term archival is used for lack of a better term in that nothing lasts for ever. But what short term do you suggest when one process is 5x more light fast, has dark stability, good resistance to ozone exposure, very high resistance to high humidity and resistance to water (depending on print support)?

      The fact is that if I had made the prints hanging in the Atlanta Airport with my Epson Surecolor eco-solvent printer, on an material rated for extended life, laminated with UV coating, and the lights were refocused to cover the print evenly, you would not see fading for likely a decade under what are still pretty harsh conditions. Dim the lights a little, turn them off when the airport closes and the display time would be extended further. Set the light to museum level exposure and current testing indicates that you can realistically achieve 100 years of display until noticeable fading occurred.

      You can not acheive that with a print made on Kodak Pro Endura paper. Although I disagree with the Kristy that the Kodak print does not look good at the start. A well made c-print looks beautiful, as does a well made pigmented inkjet print.
      -ken

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