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Monday, 02 August 2010


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Great story, great picture. Actually, the fact that you were able find the slide makes it an amazing story!!!

Best regards,

Animesh, that's quite a beautiful photograph. What a shame about the fungus; is there any way to stop it spreading?

I think that has great composition. Is there someone who can scan it, and clean it up?

A gorgeous image, fungus and all. Steve McCurry himself couldn't have done better.

As an artifact supporting this lovely story, the fungus damage isn't too serious. But it does look like the photo itself is of some interest, and it would certainly be better without the fungus, so sympathies on that.

My first Kodachrome is from right about that same period and age, shot while visiting Germany, using my mother's old Bolsey 35.

Just yesterday I ordered some small silica gel packets, thinking somewhat belatedly that I should probably toss them into the plastic boxes a lot of my old film is stored in. Speaking of fungus and all.

Free of technical worries and all the photographic obsessions we punish our minds with. That´s what a kid delivers, a beautiful and honest picture full of fun and freedom.


Beautiful story and an even more beautiful photo.

I have alot of unused k64 sitting in the fridge and would gladly trade you a few rolls for a silver print of the girls conversing by the river. You can reach me at [email protected]

I think you did your dad proud with this beautiful picture Animesh. And the fungus? Well, to my mind it adds something - a patina of age and atmosphere. No doubt there is a brush or effect in Photoshop that will sort it out but you might find you lose something in the process.
BTW, I took my first slides in the '80s and I thought turnaround times then were bad, but 3 months! It must have been very exciting when they eventually came back however.

The story is great and you can take solace in the fact that the fungus adds character and weight to the tale!

It's a great shot on its own to boot.

Thank you Animesh for a great story and a wonderful photograph. Photography is moving away, these days, from the time when it was personal with precious moments. Waiting for the pictures to come back, or developing them yourself with the fear that they would not turn out...I remember photographing in Jerusalem, and later on the Afghan-Pakistan border, when I had to think of how to protect my precious film....and that one last shot!
Your picture reminds me of why we photograph.

Maybe the fungus does harm to the picture, although I kind of like these damages, but the fungus does not harm the memory.

But what a slide! Even the fungus seems an ornament.

A truly charming story, Animesh. Whatever effort is required to retouch the image would be well spent; it's beautiful.

In a strange way, the fungus adds to the photograph's appeal.

Hey Animesh, that's not a bad start to colour photography! Beautiful shot, congrats.

Things like houses, or furniture, or photos have some times scars of time that make them more interesting. It's not that it is better with fungus, but, given the history of that photo, I would not lament that it has not been preserved in top condition.

Thnks for sharing the story and the picture.

Wow, what a special memory.

Many of us may have considered the cost of each exposure "then" vs "now", but your experience growing up in India puts it into another perspective altogether!

Although it is sometimes derided as such, it needn't be a *bad* thing that most of us are now able to shoot willy nilly without worrying about the cost.

But it's still a useful exercise to occasionally give each exposure the thought you would if it was costing you 1.4% of your monthly salary - we could all do worse than to try that from time to time :-)

Brilliant photo Animesh.

Funny how we all start out as natural artists.

Beautiful story.

Not sure if you have seen/commented on this, but I was really impressed and moved by some of these images from the '40's. Color (Kodachrome) slides taken by FSA photographers:


I really like the image! A shame about the fungus. I bet you could get a reader to clean it up for you...

Dear Animesh, I very much enjoyed looking through the photographs on your website. Thank you for your story and beautiful pictures.

One of the great benefits of digital is no longer having to agonise over whether my photos will go mouldy or deteriorate, or get lost or damaged. Yes a great slide may look a little better but I'd swap that for the additional peace of mind any day.

I can't wait to see Animesh's second color photograph.

The writing's not bad either. :-)

Hmm... I love the composition and the visual effect. I wonder if there's a fungus filter available for Photoshop?

Wow. That was quite an auspicious start to your color career! I know a lot of folks (your truly included) who would be pleased to claim that as their 10,000th color frame.

I agree with Michael that the stains add a certain charm of time-passage to the image, rather like gray hair on a distinguished head.

Thank you for taking a moment to share that story. Very memorable.

Animesh - wonderful story, thanks for posting it (and thanks to Mike as well, always a great patron of photographers :)

Animesh, it just occurred to me, now your photo is immortalized! - TOP archives will be found for centuries, and so will your first color photo!

Animesh, I also had some fungus problems on my old transparencies. I scanned them on my Plustek i7200 scanner and applied the Silverware antidust judiciously. With final clean up in PS4 I was able to get my original images back to quite a sweet place. How great to have an old man who encouraged you with your picture taking. Love the pic. India at that age. What a buzz! Dennis F.

My girlfriend was looking at this photo over my shoulder and asked "Was it taken through a window?" And I said, "No it has fungus on it." And she was like, "I don't get it, how does it have fungus on it" and then she was like "Oh! It was a *printed* photograph!" Ha. The effect of digital.

Anyway, it's beautiful, even with the fungus.

To Murray Lord: I yearn for the peace of mind that you associate with digital. I'd be grateful if you'd read my essay about the deterioration of digital files due to 'bit rot' and let me know your secret to preventing it.


Since I first posted that essay some four years ago, I've been getting a steady stream of emails from people all around the world who are in emotional turmoil over the loss of their precious image files.

Fungus has a digital equivalent. The best I can do at this time is to use ImageVerifier to detect it. But I have no surefire way to prevent it.

To Animesh: Nice story, and a fitting image to go with it. We should all make more effort to publish the story behind the iconic images in our lives.

Great picture Animesh! I'm assuming this was taken on the banks of the Yamuna (then Jumna) river?

Coincidentally, I can remember an intense debate in my family, in New Delhi, in 1967, regarding the price of a roll of Kodachrome II. My oldest, college age brother wanted to buy a roll of K-II for the family Canonet before we left on a vacation trip to Kashmir. A 20 exposure roll of K-II, with processing (it was always bundled in with the film price in those days) from Simla Studios, New Delhi, the high end photography shop in town cost Rupees 20, about US $4.50 at the then exchange rate. A 36 exposure roll cost 35 rupees or US $ 7. The debate was about whether the cost of the film should come out of the family budget or out of my brother's allowance, or pocket-money as we then called it.

As a point of reference, my allowance was Rs. 1.50 a week or US 50 cents. I forget what my brother's allowance was.

The 36 exposure roll of Kodachrome II would have cost my dad a day's pay, as a junior mid-level employee of the government of India. Not cheap, but not unaffordable either, for a middle class person. But middle class Indians were super thrifty even back then, and photography was a luxury not all families indulged themselves in.

Not really related to this topic, but it's about photography and a ballsy photographer.


I like one of the commenters modified pic showing the "Man Zone".

To the readers of TOP, thanks for such an enthusiastic response to the story and the slide, and to Mike many thanks for his kindness in publishing this. I am still squirming in the hot seat though, following on the heels of McCurry's favorite photo! Mikal, offer taken; I will email you separately.

regarding the fungus, if you are satisfied with the scan, you could try to clean the slide. 99.9% isopropyl alcohol should do the trick on the base side. If the problem is mostly on the emulation side, I'm not sure much could be done.

Worth looking into. (unlike many comments, I find the fungus disagreeable.)

Thank you for sharing. It means a lot to me not only because your story and picture are really beautiful, but also because my dad also played an important role in the beginning of my photographic experience. Well done :)

Damage and all, Animesh's photograph is a beauty, and can still be viewed in much of its original glory.

As an IT guy since the early 1980s I agonize over whether my nightly backups ran correctly and what the effects of a major hardware failure or the usual ongoing technology changes might be on all that data. I expend more energy than I care to think about making sure my data will continue to be readable because I understand all too well how fragile it really is.

Meanwhile, my processed film gets stored away safely and will more than likely outlast me.

Better check my hard disk and see if a
fungus hasn't added "character and weight"
to my stored photos.

It's been said already, but great story, it's what makes this site so appealing. Long live the story.

Very nice photo.

Cleaning in Photoshop would take some work. Maybe the new content aware cloning would help.

Creating such an effect would be almost ridiculously easy, though. Five minutes of work. (Yeah, that's me.)

Certainly a fine image. Regarding the fungus - I would suggest contacting Kodak (especially so since the recent demise of K64)to see if there is anything they would be prepared to try with the original slide apart from the obvious route of scanning and restoring in PS. Regards, Richard Kevern

Beatuful story and gorgeous image. The fungus damage can be made a lot less noticeable if you do some color filtering, like lowering saturation, in the precise channel of the fungus color, it worked for me, although it might have some impact on the overall color balance, but it can be improved a lot, i'm sure.

Paul, some of my processed film is already showing clear signs of aging (particularly the older E6 slide film). Some color prints taken in my lifetime that I have (I didn't take the photos) have lost nearly all their color (and hence much of their density, though I can still restore them as B&W).

These are of course older than my digital files.

Craig, I've never seen anything like your "bit rot" scenarios in my own pictures (I've seen bit errors in jpegs downloaded over modems in the past). However, I know they're possible, and I'm doing the following things to help protect myself:

ECC memory especially in my file server.

No overclocking.

Storing the images on a file server running ZFS. ZFS keeps data block checksums independent of the hardware error protection, so it can detect more errors than just relying on the hardware. (Also the data is mirrored on two disks).

Run weekly "scrubs", where it reads all the blocks on the disks and verifies their checksums. This means errors will be detected within a week, rather than waiting until the next time I look at an image. This makes it more likely that I'll have a valid backup somewhere. (I have not yet detected any error on a scrub.)

(I believe the BTRFS and NILFS filesystems for Linux also do block checksums. ZFS is available in a Linux and FREEBSD port, but none of these three are mainstream or considered production-ready in the Linux world (the original Solaris ZFS that I'm running is production-grade). You could simulate block checksums with a fairly simple script and the md5sum utility, making a list of the MD5 checksums of all files in a directory and then checking it each week.)

For many of the older directories, I've run PAR2 to create redundant bits and checksums of the files in the directory (I choose about 15% overhead). This gives me yet another way to detect and possibly fix errors. I should really go through and do more of this.

Multiple backups on optical and magnetic media, including off-site copies.

Using high-quality optical media (Kodak Gold Ultima, MAM Gold archival).

I have a program for analyzing the state of optical disks, which can tell how much error correction is going on to make it readable. I need to run this again on some of my older samples.

You'll notice I can't achieve these things with white-box hardware and mainstream commercial software. And that ongoing work is needed. And that I'm behind on a couple of aspects.

I won't say my digital photos are perfectly protected; I know they're not. But I do think that I'm less likely to lose a year of my digital photos than I am of my film photos. A flood or fire in my house would be quite likely to do the film in, while my digital photos would be fine (due to off-site backups).

Furthermore, I realized recently that I've been storing my film in plastic tubs, nearly air-tight, without any silica gel in there. I'm working to fix this, but that kind of oversight can be serious in a more humid climate. (If I lived in a more humid climate, I might have had enough bad experiences in the past that I wouldn't make that kind of mistake!)

Anyway -- the real lesson here is "archiving is hard". Archiving with a multi-century lifespan in mind is especially hard. Film, especially B&W film, tolerates benign neglect much more gracefully than digital data -- it degrades slowly, and can often be restored to near-perfect condition (with considerable effort) after decades in an attic or garage, say. Digital archives are rather 'brittle' -- they tend to seem perfect for a while, and then suddenly shatter when the error correction mechanism reaches its limits. But through copying and physical separation of copies, they can survive disasters that would totally destroy a film archive.

Great image and a great story behind the image as well.

Animesh, I also enjoyed your portfolios. You've made good use of the talent and skill (and/or luck, if you prefer) evident in your first Kodachrome. Judging from your home page portfolio, editing is another of your talents. (Or is it a skill?)

I think most TOP readers who enjoy good documentary photography, especially classic 35mm photojournalism, would enjoy Animesh's portfolio. It can be reached by clicking on his name at the bottom of the post above. (And thanks to Mr. Grass for alerting me to look for it.)

[Whaddaya think, Mike? IMO, there's some not-so-random excellence there.]

Dear Animesh and Andr3w,

Do NOT attempt to wet-clean your fungus-damaged slide. Fungus digests emulsions, breaking down the long protein chains. This can render the emulsion soluble in a variety of solvents, not just water. Try to wet-clean a fungus damaged slide and you have a good chance of simply stripping off the photograph.

pax / Ctein

Wonderful picture and wonderful story. Thanks for sharing.

To David Dyer-Bennet: thanks for the good description of your credibly bullet-proof image storage system. I'm very interested to continue an offline discussion with you about it, but I couldn't find an email address on your blog. If you have a mutual interest, please contact me through the email address on my jpeg corruption web page.


DD-B, now that was ubergeeking. :)

Computers have been my profession and hobby since 1969 (they were just a hobby for about a year before that). I've learned a thing or two, and developed Opinions :-).

(And I did email Craig.)

Thanks for the warning! I am not cleaning it beyond blow-dusting.

Mani: The photo was taken on the Hooghly in Chandernagore, 25 miles north of Calcutta. Kodachrome was a lot more expensive in Calcutta, ~Rs.350 for a 36exp roll with paid processing and mailer to Singapore. It's the same story today with Apple power transformer for laptop--last year I paid over twice as much in Calcutta as it would have cost me in Delhi because it had to be shipped from Delhi plus local taxes (I think, but may be I was cheated).

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