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Wednesday, 29 August 2012


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When Michelangelo made his statue of David, it is a masterpiece of art, for mankind till eternity .. but eventually the sun will explode and earth will be gone, same with all art. So Ctein, this whole thing of you is meaningless, you MUST trow those things on the fire, it is good for you, you feel liberated, there is a little more space in your head ... DO IT NOW !!!

Ctein!!! You have been my hero since the 60's onwards. For what it is worth I think that your matrices are worth saving and that places like the Library of Congress would be the logical resting place!!!! I know that this is a "no brainer" but you asked...........
thanks and cheers!

P.S. why are you closing your darkroom? Need some help? I will wilfully give some!!

What a wonderful resource for, um, whenever dye transfer printing comes back into fashion. And who's to say it won't? To make yet another audio analogy (since they seem to be in fashion these days), dye transfer is sorta like niche vinyl, let's say binaural recordings on vinyl. And like most niche technologies/art forms it'll probably keep resurfacing and occasionally becoming wildly popular as people of the future "discover" it again and again. For a while at least. Those matrices plus some sort of instruction manual could be the key to bringing the art of dye transfer printing back to life, and possibly launching it as a mainstream art form. They should therefore be kept safe, somewhere, by somebody. Can't help you with the "how," but that's my opinion on the "what should be done." The work of a master should be preserved.

Next day after you toss them out, someone will start to manufacture the materials to do it again.

Surely the place for these should be a museum charting the history of our noble art
such as this one in the UK http://www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk/ future generations need to see all the processes that came before their imaging technology.

Sell them to collectors, or even better, find a museum where they can displayed together with some prints as a record of how dye transfer prints are/were made.

You never know, there could be a rich Ctein groupie out there.

Sorry again, typo alert (opening sentence), "were" to "where".

Donate them to a photographic museum or archivist. Let them figure out a use. Perhaps sometime in the future a technology will exist which will allow their use in a manner you cannot perceive today.

Yes a couple of copies might interest museum, photography schools etc... to show a process, framed they might be nice. It might also show students how to analyze a print.

I would consider giving them to someone who will reuse/repurpose it in art he produces ().art school or the social internet will be your friend here).

there are many things I own, whether artistic or not, that I haven't thrown out, even thouugh they have no use any longer.

Whenever cleanup time rolls around, more and more eventually does get thrown away.

Not wired that way? Hogwash. Toss it and within a short time you'll have moved on to something else and never give it a second though.

I try to follow: If you haven't used it in a year or two, get rid of it.

Well, I've read that Matthew Brady's glass plates ended up being sold to someone who used them to make a greenhouse. These negatives might become an interesting greenhouse-like installation . ..or even light reducing additions to an actual greenhouse . . thus (ironically) forming an echo of an earlier sad chapter in the history of photography.

I'd take a set off your hands. I'd find a way to display them in a similar way to some original biomedical data that I have from the sixties (not mine - just lovely data that was studying the effects of a drug 20 years before they knew which receptors it was working on that I then did a PhD on 35 years later - along with proofs and the final paper that I have thanks to the internet). Anyway, I love an historical work in progress. I expect that a whole bunch of other people do too. Otherwise museums with blacksmiths probably wouldn't exist. So, a series of matrices leading to the final work print that they made all matted in a row. Or something like that...

present them nicely and sell them as art? do they have any aesthetic appeal on their own?

I don't know about the matrices, but I'd love to buy a workprint...

Can you stop thinking like a photographer and start thinking like a print maker? Stop thinking that certain of these go together while not going with others? Start thinking "mashup" and stop thinking in the matrix? Doing so will likely open up all sort of creative, maybe commercial avenues. Not your cuppa perhaps but likely someone else's.

eBay sets as collectors items? Not sure if the cost/return works out...

If I could choose the plates, I would buy 1 (or maybe a few) to frame and hang. I like the aesthetic that points at the production process and the craft therein, particularly given the increasing rarity. I'm sure I wouldn't be the only one - perhaps make a selection available for purchase as is? If you're not interested in profit, at least we can cover packaging & postage?

I reside across the pond so couldn't help with the physical logistics (appreciating you probably have neither the time nor inclination to pack and post a bunch of these) but I'd gladly help with virtual logistics such as an online gallery and ordering system (web designer/developer by profession).

Since dye transfer printing is near extinction, would it make sense to assemble a few sets of the matrices and the final product, maybe together with the notes, in an exhibition format (large frame or similar) and donate them to museums? I assume a place like George Eastman House has enough examples of dye transfer images and the process, but other museums, either with photograph collections or with more of a technical history background, ideally a combination of both, might be interested?

Consign all the now useless and burdensome Matrices to the flames at the Burning Man festival !! Bring a group of friends to help you witness the end of this significant portion of your artistic life. Bring a good photographer friend to commemorate the event. Acknowledge both the sadness and the joy as the Matrices transform into the veritable stuff of the Universe.

I would suggest, Ctein, that you consider the educational/historical value of these matrices, if not in an academic sense than at least in terms of your legacy as an artist.

Some of my more memorable visits to the Art Institute of Chicago involved exhibitions where, aside from the work of a great master, they had on display his/her notes, sketches, etc. It was a wonderful experience for me, as a museum visitor, to see how these artists worked; what their thought process was.

Perhaps the George Eastman House would be interested in acquiring some if not all of your matrices?

But whatever you do, please don't throw them away.

They are unique, so sell them accordingly to collectors! Use the money while you're alive.

You could offer them to people who have bought your prints for.. some price.

Are they stable enough to mount and display as a companion art piece?

A museum of photography is the obvious and you did reference that.
I'm wondering how they might look displayed back lighted, either individually or grouped in register?

Hi Ctein,

Would you consider making one last print with each and selling it with the matrices?

Such a set would preserve the print and (some) of the tools used to create it. The buyer gets a talking point to han in their living room, you get some money and the knowledge that they have gone to a good home where they will be appreciated. Tie-in with Mike for a print sale with a diference maybe?


I for one, would love to have one or more of these matrices, with work notes scribled on them etc. hanging on my wall. These sort of things have a very appealing texture - and I'm pretty that many will agree.

Could they become an art piece unto themselves? I have never seen these close up and this could be the raving of an idiot, but I am thinking 'one of a kind' art pieces. Especially since they can no longer be used. Just a thought.

I'm sure you've considered Eastman House. The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas might also be interested; they've got quite an extensive photography collection.

"Sorry again, typo alert (opening sentence), 'were' to 'where.'"

Thanks. Fixed.

Mike the Ed.

Have a sale. Charge a few bucks + cost of postage/handling and each buyer gets a set of matrices and the reference print. Buyers don't get a choice ... just the next set in the pile. Ctein cleans out the basement/garage and a few people add a unique item to their photo collection. I'd be willing to pay $25 or so + postage for a set.

I'll take a set! ;-)

I agree with others that the matrices, nicely presented together with the reference print, have an aesthetic appeal of their own and might find a larger (and paying) audience than you think. This is the sort of thing I would enjoy hanging on my wall. I imagine it would start some interesting conversations.

Roger's suggestion is also superb.

Another vote for the 'have a sale' suggestion. I would note that TOP print sales frequently have the kind of volume that would be necessary to thin your collection substantially. It's true that to keep things manageable you'd probably have to be selling people random sets, which would turn people off somewhat, but on the other hand what you're selling would be more unique and interesting than what you see at ordinary print sales, so there's probably a price point you could pick that will move most of them, to mostly good homes, and make you some money in the process.

This is all assuming you can't place them with interested museums, of course.

I see your heirs making some serious $$ on an episode of "American Pickers". In 2052.

"I see your heirs making some serious $$ on an episode of 'American Pickers.' In 2052."

And don't forget, the way Vivian Meier's work came to light is illustrated vividly by A&E's "Storage Wars." Before she had even died, which I have to say strikes me as being just a little creepy.


you could do a brett weston, or a lillian bassman.

Part of the price of everything is the price of the place to put it. Not only the physical place, but the place in your mind. The most important tool of any photographer is a large trash can. This is a distraction from what you do best, creating great art. However you dispose of them, dispose of them.

I don't have the $$$ to put where my mouth is but: I'd happily buy and display a set of matrices + workprint. I find a craftsman's tools to be beautiful.

For all the same reasons that one should preserve their digital files in their original format -- i.e., you never know what might happen in the future -- I think you should hold onto your matrices, because ... well, you truly don't know. Certainly five cubic feet of space isn't that much and it doesn't seem they require any special support otherwise, so put 'em under your bed or something and forget about them for a while.

What you have here are the physical artefacts of (a method of) color picture construction. Surely there's a way they can be displayed so that a 5 year old would get it "Aha, I see how the separate colors get layered together to make the picture!"

They need to be displayed. If you don't want the hassle I'd find a connected curator type to handle distributing them to places where they'll be accessible.

I think they would make for an interesting triptych...as wall art. Start first with the Library of Congress thing, and if they turn them down consider selling them as wall art - perhaps on etsy. I for one would love to have a set of these in my office! I am serious - let me know the price and shipping :D.


They are most certainly collectable. The NASA matrices are particularly valuable. I think if I were in your shoes, I'd sort out your work into three categories: 1. NASA/historically significant; 2. Images that were collected and purchases in significant quantities; 3. Images that are not timeless artistically. Once you've categorized your inventory, you can decide how to go about dispersing the collection. I do not know you, so it's hard for me to know where your head is at. I am thinking that some would be of interest to the Smithsonian/George Eastman House (donate), some to galleries that specialize in photography (commerce), some recycled for silver content, some included with an inkjet print or proof with a certificate of authenticity (commerce), etc.

You only have to make one cold inquiry: ebay. Let the market do the work.

Figure a cost for packing and shipping them; make that the buy price or open an auction w/ that minimum; publicize via TOP and your website. If no takers, you've lost not much time and money and then you/we can brainstorm some other solution.

In the photo, they look beautiful in their own right. They also look transparent, and if so, I imagine they could be used for some photographic process of some kind (not necessarily color) or serve as material for some kind of visual art or display. You never know.

Dear folks,

I appreciate general philosophical and practical musings about what to do with an artist's legacy, because it's something that concerns us all.

But as for people directly exhorting me to do something that I have clearly said I absolutely do not want to do, that's kind of dismissive of my feelings and wishes. Allow that I know my own mind and respect me in this, OK?

I won't be responding to anything directing me to trash, mulch, shred, burn or landfill these. Creative repurposing is one thing. Disposal in any form will not happen.

pax / Ctein

Dear folks,

Remarkably, many people have suggested (both in comments here and in private e-mails) that there would be a market for selling the matrix sets and proof prints to collectors. Honestly, that it never occurred to me! But, now that it's been explained to me, I get it

First dibs will still be to any institutions that want sets, because that's a much more socially valuable thing to do with them. But any that can't be donated that way? Well, I think some kind of sale like that will happen at sometime in the future, after the darkroom gets shut down. Mike and I both think it has possibilities as a TOP sale, which would be amusingly different from previous ones.

Details, of course, are yet to be determined.

Price? Who knows? ($100? $200? Your guess is as good as mine.)

Will you get a choice of which set you want? In an absolute sense, that's an impossibility; mostly there's one set of matrices for each photograph. And for all of you who bought dye transfer prints through the previous TOP sales who would be hoping to score the matrices for those, realize your odds would be about 1 in 100 of asking first. But maybe I'd let people give me their top four choices. Or maybe we would just make it catch as catch can. Kind of like a cross between a lawn sale and a grab bag, y'know?

It would not be much before the end of next year, obviously, as the darkroom isn't even closed yet. So don't expect any news soon. But the idea will definitely not be lost.

Anyway, thank you very much for the very helpful suggestion!

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

How much for a clip of your hair ?

Is there some way to store them in tubes and power the world off them?

Dear Kenneth,

Send me an SASE.


Dear Robert e (and others),

Yeah, physically, these are large sheet film transparencies on a mylar base. They're actually relief images in gelatin; they have varying physical thickness with the density. The color comes from carbon black loading.

Archivally, they are more stable than anything else that's gelatin-based. The emulsion can get eaten by small buggy things, just like other gelatin emulsions. But absent that, they won't fade nor deteriorate.

pax / Ctein

I am the registrar at the Kennedy Museum of Art at Ohio University. We have a photo study collection (not online) that I think would benefit from the addition of one of these sets. Would it be possible to acquire one from you?

Get a hole punch and a bunch of suitable binders and make up some "books". Or just some art folios from an arts/crafts store and put everything related to say 10 images in each (whatever fills them easiest). Send them out to your best long standing clients as a thank you for their support over the years.

If you can, make one more dye transfer print from the matrices, and sell the whole set as one, print, work print and matrices for that print, in one set. That guarantees the uniqueness (limited edition) in the sense that no more prints can be made, at least not by you and in reality not by anyone else either. It is not a problem for a collector to keep one set. It is much bigger problem for you to keep 300. If you cannot make more prints any more, i think you should still sell the work print and matrices for that as one set. This is especially good if the work print is also exhibition quality in your own high standards. If it is not, then the price would need to be much lower as it is just a curiosity, not Art. So now you have 300 ready made unique prints for sale. This process is part of history and is especially valuable since it is no longer available.

I agree completely with what Jeffrey Goggin suggests. Verbatim.

Does a set include a clipping of your hair?

I like the idea of selling them framed as an original art work!

I think your prices are too low. There are probably 10 sets + work print that I would pay $1,000, some even more. But I probably wouldn't be interested if it were random. Collectors and those with money might pay much more.

I could see the NASA stuff going for $3k-5k no problem.

If distributing individual sets of matrices, maybe there should be a process to give preference to their going somewhere that a print made from them also resides. A significant bit of the interest seems to me to be in having access to both, to compare and so forth. Obviously most people can't have the matrices for the prints they have, since most of the prints sold in more than one copy; but at least the matrices could go to a place that does have a print.

Without seeing the actual matrices or understanding the process of how they are used (are they negative or positive images?), it's hard to say what would work, but I suspect a set could be nicely displayed in away that would emphasize what they are, that is, intermediate processes in the creation of a print. Together with the working print I think there would be a lot of interest. It would be a bit of a shame to break up your collection. If you have the space, store them while you mull it over. If you sell them matched with a print I would certainly be interested, even if I didn't get to choose the individual print (though I do like the one you chose to illustrate this post). They are certainly not worthless, but should enhance the value of the reference prints. And don't underestimate the value of the reference prints. Unlike many limited editions, these would be the real deal.

Two related suggestions. 1. sell as a set, packaged in a nice portfolio case. 2. Not sure if this would work but could they be displayed as a stack eg between plates of glass and back (or side-) illuminated?

Relatively local to you the Oakland Museum of California maintains, if I recall correctly, an enormous collection of photographic images. If you do sets, they might be a reasonable place to consider a set of an appropriately California image.

Have one of your Chinese friends write a cryptic note in Chinese -- classical Chinese and Japanese ideograms are the same, so a haiku would do -- attach the note to the matrices, and then Fed-Ex them (anonymously) overnight to the NSA.

I do wonder about how you could maybe project an image out of these matrices. The problem being of course you would need 3 separate projectors, slightly off axis from each other, focused on the same image. That would be some sort of cool technical feat (perhaps impossible)?

Of course you could always project off the negative (in the case of digital the image file), but I've always found digital projectors never the same as a slide because of the pixelation whilst magnified. But also, the whole idea of being able to walk around, to BE IN one of your photos, that's kinda cool ...


Well, you ought to have known better. Would you have generated pictures of relatives rather than plants - it would have been simple whom to bequeath.

How about you put them on ebay and advertise the auctions here?

One auction per set. This way you give everyone (especially all your previous print buyers) the choi$e to get the matrices for a print that they already own.

It's better than selling everyone a random set and less work than having to coordinate who gets what. Plus you don't have think about what the right asking price is.

Could they be used as a sort of canvas for a painter? They could be a very unique starting point.

I think that a set of three matrices and workprint, matted together in a single frame (either 4x1 or 2x2) is something I wouldn't mind seeing on *my* wall. (But then I'm thinking of the TOP-print-offer-sized prints that I already own - a 16x20" inch set might be unwieldy!).

I assume that the workprints represent the intended final printing, in which case reprinting of every set seems unnecessary.

Depending on the price I'd probably be happy to accept a random choice of image.

Unlike many who have commented on a possible afterlife for your matrices I have worked with these materials and doubt displaying them in their present form would make a compelling presentation. However, I am a practicing “ RePurposer “, as opposed to a recycler where the item is destroyed as part of the processes of rebirth. In my own artistic life items I procure or invent often enjoy a long and meaningful life as new uses are found that celebrate the nature and spirit of the original object. My advice is to think,” RePurpose” with meaning!

No not useless. Sell them. Do one last maybe even best transfer from each set. Then package them together. The buyer gets the very last print ever made and what was used to make it. You don't have to stop making the prints as you have them digitally. But you can sell this as the last ever dye transfer. Put it all together in a frame, sign it and you have have a way to charge what you want.

I don't have the funds, but I would seriously consider buying one this way.


Give them to the University of Texas, biggest archive of photography in the world and owner of the first photo ever taken on display 24/7/365.

Old photo's never die, they just lose sponsors and interest, give those organized and labeled images away today if they will take them. And then start getting rid of all of the rest of your stuff so your kids or others don't have to. As American's we pretty much all have too much stuff. Time to clean out the closets twice. :)

Sad to hear this is ceasing (but understand). Analogies to vinyl aren’t quite right as the replacement technologies are of inferior quality.

The image at the top – The set of matrices and the final print alongside. I think a number of collectors and photo enthusiasts would love that if framed together, especially at the moment as Kodak’s decline is again turning people back to film (see Kirk Tuck). I realize it’s not a “No brainer” but I genuinely think may be a worthwhile commercial artistic product.

Agree with Sam Bienstock – Ctein, you’re a hero.

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