Ed Wargin

Art Concept to Art Preservation:

Steps Taken To Curate and Preserve the Film Plate Collection and the Developmental Process for Producing the Digital Masters Collection.


The process to develop this historical film collection has been a lengthy and arduous one, and the procedures go well beyond the actual exposing of each film plate in the field. For photographer Ed Wargin, the past several years have been spent organizing and archiving the entire Great Lakes Film Collection as close to historical and museum quality standards as possible.  

Painstaking, disciplined and deliberate, every film plate has undergone an archival process for the final repository. This  includes the creation of a matching digital master file to each film plate in the form of a professionally prepared, scanned publisher-ready large resolution digital file. The archive also includes a corollary matching searchable database with each a library of way-finding files for each photograph. 



The Great Lakes Film Collection as a manageable archive includes:


Color Reversal Film Plates

Each original film plate is a unique and individual piece of original artwork. The plates are preserved in their original formats, either unmounted medium format plates or mounted 135mm film plates. Each plate is masterfully inspected and cleaned before it is scanned and stored in the final collection.


Digital Masters

Two types of Corollary Digital Master Plates for each film plate:

1) Professionally scanned, color-corrected, cleaned, publisher-ready digital master (.tiff)

2) Digitized database way-finding scan (.jpg)



A multi-platform proprietary and searchable database of each film plate in the collection with details including photograph title, year photographed, camera used, film used, film plate number, original film location of each photograph, the scan year of each digital master and its file-output size, i.e. 300 dpi @ 22" x 28", etc. 



Digital Masters + Data Storage

While the entire collection of film assets (the tangible film plates) exist in an archivally sleeved and labeled ecosystem to match the database, the entire library of matching Digital Masters, the way-finding jpegs to each plate, and the corollary navigation database are stored upon two redundant 4TB Western Digital external hard drives formatted to Mac/OS.

The Steps In Detail:

Processing the Film

Early in his career while working for many fine art, advertising and editorial photographers in the field,  Wargin learned the importance of creating a strong relationship with the right lab. Toward that end, while working as a young photographer in California, Wargin was fortunate to have met and worked with Mike Lussier, a California-based professional film-processing scientist who specialized in developing diapositive (color reversal) film.

Mike Lussier's passion and skill for processing diapositive film is renowned amongst professional film photographers worldwide. And as luck would have it, Lussier later opened up AgX Imaging Labs in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. This means the entire film collection (and not the Kodachrome work) was processed through high-end film processor: Mike Lussier of AgX Imaging Labs. 

When Ed Wargin started out making the archive in 1987, there were literally hundreds of high-end film processing labs across North America. By the year 2011,  there were a mere 25 professional film labs working in color reversal film processing, and of those labs, only 3 were under constant color controls. AgX Imaging Labs was one of those 3 labs. 


Editing the Film

When assembling a film collection of this size over a range of thirty years, Ed Wargin considered two types of editing. First, t established a process for baseline edits; these are the ones that happen when film arrives from the lab and each film plate is inspected carefully with respect to sharpness, color accuracy, composition and lighting, as well as its power to tell the story of the Great Lakes.  

Because this was a collection to be created and edited over a span of decades, Ed Wargin established a process for keeping all unselected film plates in accessible dry storage.This was because he knew that changes in technology over time could sway opinion over particular pieces of film. In particular, he knew that scanning technology would improve, causing decisions about film selections to change. For example, the film plate scanners of today can capture more detailed information in a high-end scan than when compared to those of a decade prior. Because of this, Ed Wargin regularly went back to revisit and re-edit stored pieces of film not initially selected for the archive. 

All film plates for The Great Lakes Film Collection had to surpass the photographer's benchmarks for color, composition and narrative. All final selections were then put up against Ed Wargin's Mission Statement for the project: Does this photograph tell the story of the Great Lakes?


Producing Digital Masters of Film Each Plate

Once a film plate was selected for inclusion and properly cleaned, it was scanned into two separate working digital files by photographer Ed Wargin. The first digital file is a digital master file which is a publishing and print-ready high-resolution scan (saved in a .tiff format) which has been color-corrected to match the original film plate as closely as possible. Given the varied characteristics of high-end film plate scanners, no film plate is perfectly matched in its final digital form, however, through careful color control of each scan and color rendering, each film plate reflects the photographer's vision for future publication. The second digital file is an identical partner scan to the original .tiff file that has been saved in the .jpeg format to be used as a way-finding reference artifact to the original .tiff file, and to be used widely on any platform involving the worldwide web.

Each film plate was scanned at the highest resolution possible using an Imacon Flextight X1 film scanner in the photographer's studio. This has ensured that each digital plate is professionally preserved and suited for a multitude of purposes including both print and digital outputs. 


Completing the Film and Digital Plate Database

After each film plate was properly scanned, its relevant information was entered into a multi-platform proprietary database. In this database, each film plate and its corresponding digital plate was given the following:

  • File Code Number
  • Art Title Name
  • Year Created
  • Photograph Location
  • Film Type
  • Film Size
  • Film Plate Number
  • Film Brand
  • Camera Used
  • Collection Name
  • Scan Verification Check
  • Clean Verification Level
  • Date Scanned
  • Scan Size
  • Scan Storage Information


Film Plate Storage: Post scan, each film plate has been sleeved and labeled with its File Code Number, then placed into an archival page. The entire Great Lakes Film Collection database has been recorded on two high-end redundant external hard-drives. 

*The database also denotes the level of publishing "clean" readiness for each individual file through tickboxes of 0, 50 and 100% clean levels. The majority of files are 100% clean. 100% denotes the file is ready for any publication, or any large format printing cycle. 50% denotes it is most likely clean enough for any print publication or small format printing cycle. 0% denotes the file is color managed by the photographer, but is not print ready until cleaned further of any dust, specs or scratches. 


Fresh Coast: More Than Just A Catch Phrase:
When Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett called the Great Lakes region the “Fresh Coast” at the Metropolitan Planning Council’s annual luncheon, The Cities that Work, last month, he was hardly the first to use the term. In fact, Minnesota-based photographer Ed Wargin, whose artistic and commercial work is nationally recognized, has made it his life’s work to document the Fresh Coast: the entirety of the Great Lakes, both the American and Canadian sides, in all four seasons.

The Great Lakes Film Collection Acquisition Inquiries:


*Serious Inquiries Only.