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Cameras/Brownie Camera Lost for Years

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Question
Hello, my name is Patrick Link, I am an author, working on my third novel. My newest work is about Yamashita's Gold, a treasure from World War II that is supposed to be hidden in caves in the Philippines.

My question is, what if someone took a picture with a 1950's vintage era Brownie Camera in the year 1970. The camera was then lost in a cave in the Philippines. If the camera was found now, would the film still contain the image? And if it was degraded, would it be intact enough to determine the image?

Inside the cave, the temperature and humidity would be constant and, of course, there would be no UV to degrade the film.

Thank you so much for your response.
Patrick

Answer

Hello Patrick,

Given the parameters that the temperature and humidity would be constant and never extreme, yes, an image that had already been taken on the film 40-50 years ago could still be developed today, and probably exhibiting very little degradation. If it's color film, it may no longer render certain colors correctly, but it could still be printed as black and white instead. Once an image has been captured on film, the negative is surprisingly stable. Any film that had not been exposed would no longer be viable, but the exposed parts WILL hold that image. Depending on the exact film, some amount of additional chemical treatment might be necessary, usually an anti-fogging agent is added to the process, but even in the worst case scenario, you'd eventually have an image that would allow you to enhance details through later Photoshop or similar computer image analysis. In the story, if you want to make sure you get the best possible image after all those years, I recommend the film be something black and white and of medium exposure sensitivity. For example, if the old Kodak Brownie box camera is a model that takes #620 roll film (a good candidate from 1950 would be the classic plastic Brownie Hawkeye model), it could be Kodak Verichrome Pan film. Just a suggestion...

Best wishes,

David F. Silver - President
International Photographic Historical Organization

silver@photographyhistory.com  

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David Silver

Expertise

I'm an expert on all types of antique, classic, and contemporary cameras, as well as the general history of photography. Everything from ancient box cameras to modern single-lens-reflex; from simple Kodaks to sophisticated Leica and Nikon; from glass plates and roll film to movie and 35mm. I can identify and appraise them, explain how they work, and offer insights on their restoration and care. I can also provide historical background on vintage cameras and equipment, and guidelines on their purchase and sale.

Experience

I've been a professional photographer and a student of the history of photography for nearly 30 years. During that time my collection of vintage cameras and photographic paraphernalia has grown beyond 2000 significant pieces. I've published nearly 70 articles in the field, including 16 in the popular "Buying Classic Cameras" series for PHOTO SHOPPER MAGAZINE from 1995 to 1997, I'm currently a contributing editor for CAMERA SHOPPER MAGAZINE and McKEOWN'S PRICE GUIDE TO ANTIQUE AND CLASSIC CAMERAS, and I've written numerous entries for WORLD BOOK ENCYCLOPEDIA. Portions of my collection have been displayed in museums and special exhibits in the past two decades, and many of the items were photographed as illustrations for books. In 1985 I founded the International Photographic Historical Organization (InPHO), which eventually evolved into its intended purpose as the best first resource for information on the history of photography. I'm also a founding member of several e-mail forums dedicated to specialized areas of photography, and I'm the moderator of the Internet Directory of Camera Collectors (IDCC), which remains the largest and most successful such group in the world. For more information about the International Photographic Historical Organization and its many services, please visit its web pages at:

http://www.photographyhistory.com


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