Just like moving images, still photographs deserve an equal attention in preservation, says Taina Meller, conservator in-charge of the Kay R Whitmore Conservation Center at the George Eastman Museum, New York. She is one of the experts
participating in the 10-day long International Film Preservation and Restoration Workshop, currently going on at National Film Archives of India (NFAI). “I am a photograph conservator and work with still photographs and not moving images. I am very glad that this medium has been included in the film preservation and restoration workshop because I strongly feel that just like films, photographs too are a very important part of our culture and heritage. It’s important to talk about conservation treatment of photographs without first understanding the materials that we aim to treat. And hence, I introduce the students to various photographic processes – from the early daguerreotype process that dates back to 1839 to calotype of 1841 to various other processes,” says Meller, who, after graduating from the EVTEK Institute of Art and Design in Vantaa, Finland, worked as a photograph conservator for a number of major institutions in Helsinki, Finland, including the Finnish Museum of Photography and the Finnish National Gallery. Talking about the scene of photograph preservation in India, she said that there’s a lot that needs to be done to preserve the photographic heritage of India. Meller brought a part of her study collection to share with the students attending the workshop so that they get an insight into the look-and-feel of the materials in her possession, some of which are more than 100 years old. “For example, the daguerreotype was the first commercially successful photographic process. The resolution of the image in this process is formed by nano particles of silver. There is no process that gives a resolution like the daguerreotype. One is able to take a small area of a photograph and enlarge it, and yet the image does not pixelate. I know I could have even shown them slides through a projector but its different to actually feel the objects and materials you are studying,” she says, adding that conservation of still images is a skill and demands a lot of time and effort.