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Film Restoration Turns a Negative Into a Positive for Flood Victims

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RALEIGH — Many flood victims have returned home to find their belongings ruined, including photos they have taken and saved over the years. But there may be a way to turn the negative into a positive.

Photography experts say the way to save photographs is to wet them again. "You want to make sure your prints become completely wet again. You do not want your prints to have dry sections in them that are stuck to the emulsions of the other prints," says Joseph White of J.W. Photo Labs in Raleigh.

White says never try to separate pictures that are stuck together. He says it is best to separate them under water, in a shallow pan or bathtub.

"The water will slowly get in between the prints until it completely moistens the emulsion of the print below it, and they will usually separate," he says.

You can gently rub away any dirt or mud while the print is under water.

After the picture is clean, lay it flat on a sheet or towel to dry.

Your negatives will need extra care. Separate and clean them under water as well. Then, dip them in film stabilizer -- a solution you can buy at a photo lab.

Negatives need to be hung up to dry. White suggests using a clothesline. "Put a clothesline up, take a clothespin [and] clip the corner of it," he says. "Don't lay it on anything. You want it to be hanging in the air."

If you can preserve the negative, you can always get new prints made.

If your pictures are in an album, it is best to take them out of the album, clean them, then put them in a new album.

If your picture is in a frame, stuck to the glass, it may be tough to save.

And if you do not have time to separate and clean your photos now, the best thing to do is keep them moist in a Ziploc bag.

The Johnston County Community College Art Department is offering to clean damaged photos and give free black and white negatives of photos to flood victims. For more information, call (919) 934-3051, extension 752.


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