Photographers returned from their expeditions with rolls of exposed film which had to be treated properly for the images to be recovered! From every film, a contact sheet was obtained upon which images appeared in the negative’s format. The photographer’s work fed the illustrated press, which was incredibly successful during the 20th Century.
It was from the contact sheet that the photographer selected images for enlargement. For 6×6 cm, in order to avoid waste, photographers used scissors to make a first selection of negatives before placing their contact sheets together on a cardboard panel. For 35 mm however, the film was less easy to handle and the whole roll of film was contact printed onto a single sheet of photographic paper.
The square 6×6 cm format allowed the photographer to continue the framing process in the lab by selecting a height or width format, often to meet the page setting requirements of a newspaper, and refining the framing marked on the contact sheet.
The 24×36 mm negative’s small size made this unfeasible, and progress in the quality of viewfinders favoured taking photographs that were framed on the spot; keeping the original framing actually became a golden rule for some photographers!
Access to this raw material was a rich learning experience, showing for instance how many pictures photographers had to take in order to get the one that worked, whether in terms of framing or lighting or the moment the photographer chose to capture.