In addition to working with traditional and digital methods of negative production, CAW also has the capability to create digital film transparencies. One such project was the restoration and re-creation of the slide show Helen Levitt in Color, originally exhibited September 16 – October 20, 1974 for her Projects show at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). This work consists of 40 colour photographs made by Levitt on the streets of New York from 1971-74 and has, in various forms, been featured in several books and catalogues.
Over time, colour transparency film can be susceptible to colour shifts and fading. The goal of the project was to create sets of exhibition slides for MoMA’s collection that represent the images as they appeared when first produced. To achieve the best result, a wide range of source material including, 35mm slides, dye transfer prints and chromogenic color prints from the collections of MoMA and the Estate of Helen Levitt were digitised to make the high resolution files. These files were then used to translate the images back into the 35mm transparency format for exhibition.
It was a technical and aesthetic challenge to re-create this collection of images from such a wide variety of sources and materials, each
unique in its inherent qualities and in physical condition. For certain images a direct transcription from slide to slide was impossible so there was the need to transpose from the original medium to another. In careful consultation with Marvin Hoshino of the Helen Levitt Estate, Sarah Meister, Curator and Tasha Lutek, Cataloguer from the Department of Photography at MoMA, we were able to digitally restore the images and then output them as 35mm slides using an LVT film recorder and 8×10, E6 reversal film.
These photographs remain an important and vital artistic work; Levitt’s dynamic frame, sense of tonality, and the humanity with which she has captured the citizens of New York, continue to make this series of images a pleasure to view and to contemplate.