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Today there are many real photo postcards of unknown origin and date.
When no postmark is available, the type of materials used can often aid in narrowing down the years it may have been produced in.
Collotypes, which provide the finest detail of all printing methods are sometimes confused with real photo postcards.
But even collotypes will exhibit a discernible grain when magnified.
A studio sometimes grew to the point where additional photographers were hired but all the photographs produced were published with the original photographers name.
At other times a studio might buy out the negative inventory of older photographers and reprinted their images under the current studio name.
The tonalities of photos are completely continuous to the eye producing true greys, for they are created by the reaction of individual photosensitive molecules to light rather than the transfer of ink from a plate.
Light energy alone, usually from the sun, reacted with the light sensitive chemicals on the paper’s surface to produce an image.
They only needed to be fixed to preserve the exposed image.
- This process was invented in 1842, but its first known use for a postcard was in 1888.
No commercial paper was needed, though eventually manufactured, as card stock could be photosensitized at home and printed out. Variations on this process were developed over the years that followed.
The photosensitive solution used in this process soaks into the paper, so the original paper surface remains dominant in the final print.