Common Photo Damage: Silverfish


Common Photo Damage: Silverfish

Nothing can spur an impromptu deep-home cleaning faster than finding an unidentified creepy-crawly in your home. Bugs are outside things that don’t belong in the home, yet they are a common struggle that every homeowner has to face at some point. One bug that we want to make you aware of is silverfish.

Silverfish are bugs that are wicked fast and incredibly ugly. The National Pesticide Information Center describes silverfish as “wingless insects with flat, carrot-shaped bodies.” They are nocturnal creatures and typically live in cool, damp places. They eat kitchen dry goods, dust, dead insects, and textiles like linen, cotton, silk, wallpaper, book bindings, and cardboard.

They also love to eat your photographs.

Silverfish damage is one of the most common types of photo damage that we see at the studio. Most people don’t know that they have silverfish issues because they assume the photo has faded or bits of photo have fallen off over time. The bugs eat the emulsion and leave holes in the image. Here’s a closeup of silverfish damage:

Many times, our clients inherit images that have already been subjected to damage and had no idea that their photos served as a feast for bugs. We can apply traditional photography and conservation methods to repair the original photo, but we cannot restore the photo 100%. Once the emulsion of a photo is stripped, it can never be put back to its original state. The best way to handle silverfish damage is to prevent it from happening at all.

Here are a few tips to help protect your images:
  1. Ensure your frames are properly backed. Old photographs have a certain charm to them from the beautiful person in the image to the cardboard beer box that grandpa used to back the frame. As charming as these DIY frame jobs can be, they aren’t safe for your photos. Look for frames that have wood or cardboard backing and anything with gaps. If your eye can see the problem, so can the bugs. You can keep the original frame, but take it to a professional framer to have them properly fit the frame with conservation methods.
  2. Store photos in an airtight container. Your photos don’t need to be under lock and key, but they should be protected. Store your albums in a tight fitting slipcase or in a bin with silica desiccant packets. The bugs won’t be able to get in, but you’ll be able to easily access your favorite photos.
  3. Prevention. Purchase a dehumidifier, stop any leaks in your home, and remove the food they love. There are products out there to help trap bugs like sticky pads and silverfish poison packets to store in bookshelves and drawers. If you have kids or pets, you may want to research some safer DIY methods online or call a pest control professional to help you.

Silverfish are the type of bug that make you want to put everything you love into a plastic bubble (including yourself). As creepy as they are, they don’t need to take over your life. By taking a few simple steps, you can help keep the photos you love safe and whole.

Want to learn more about the types of common photo damage? Visit our photo restoration guide.