“It just started to fail the smell test,” Hochberg said of that period. The couple worked with Paul Messier, a paper conservator they had used in the past, to develop scientific tests. The results of their collaborative research can now be found in just about any auction house or major photography gallery.
“Let’s say you go to an auction preview today, and there’s something being offered, and it says ‘1930,’” explained Hochberg. “You’ll ask, ‘Have you black-lit that picture?’ and they’ll say, ‘Why, of course. Do you want to black-light it yourself?’ And maybe you’ll take it to a back room where it’s dark, and you hold it under a black light to see if the paper fluoresces. That is standard talk today, and nobody used those words before the Lewis Hine thing.”
The couple determined that their purportedly vintage Hine photographs were posthumous
in part because the paper was bleached, a practice that only began in the 1950s when manufacturers began adding optical brighteners to paper.