Exhibition framing 2010

Framing Example, 2010-05

(Link to larger image)

Since I just went through the process yet again of having two prints framed for an upcoming show (disclosure: pictured example is not one of them), I thought I would pass on my current thinking about framing.  This has evolved over the years and thus I’m tagging this with 2010 since I’m sure my thoughts will change on this topic in the future.  Overall I’m very happy with where the process is now.  I’m not going to describe the printing process, which I’ve gone over before, and may revisit in a future posting.

My current framing process is to print smaller than the mat opening by a few mm with the paper size being larger than the opening by a “reasonable amount”.  This is so that the mat actually presses down on the print paper, but outside the printed area.  If I’m hinge mounting this provides some pressure to keep the print flat. When I dry mount, sometimes the edges of the paper will come loose a bit over the years, so this helps keep some pressure on the paper to ameliorate that and hides any unsightly separation from the print from the mount board.  In both cases, since the mat does not actually contact the image, there is no danger to the image from long-term exposure to the mat.  So many old photographs are ruined by exposure to the mat material.  Finally, doing this also provides added space around the image to help “frame” the image and emphasize it, and provides a natural space for signing the print.

Although I employ both mount techniques, I’m tending toward dry mounts these days, especially for larger prints. This has mostly to do with my environment, which is very humid and rainy at times. I just cannot in good conscience place a piece in an exhibit with a price tag on it hinge-mounted in this climate, where it likely to buckle over time.  If dry mounting I select archival 100% rag (acid free) sturdy mount board.  Dry mounted prints are also easier to store without damage due to bending, and can be quickly reinserted into a frame if needed. I will occasionally still hinge mount if I’m really pressed for time or I know that I won’t be offering an image for sale.  In a drier climate I suspect that I would hinge mount everything since it is more archival with regards to the print.

For matting, I prefer a double mat primarily for separating and protecting the print from the glazing, but also because I think it looks better. I almost never choose any kind of colored mat, but just go with some form of white.  Colored mats just invite trouble if you are ever trying to put different pictures together for a solo exhibit.  Better to stick with white, which is a classic look. Some people like really huge mats, but I guess I prefer them on the thinner side.  Slightly over 2 inches is standard for me, although it entirely depends on print dimensions: I’ll go to near 3 inches for a 20 inch print and so on up.

I do not attach the mat to the mount board with any sort of adhesive.  Although this allows for a slight shifting of the image within the mat outline, I can live with that.  If both mat and mount board fit rather snugly within the frame it can be minimized.  Doing it this way allows the mat to be easily changed out without damage to the print or mount board.  It also allows me to easily pop out the mounted image and substitute another image for a different show later, reusing the mats, frame, glazing and foam core backing.

For the frame, I prefer wood frames only.  I like a classic black, because it complements the white mats and is very versatile as far as pairing and grouping photographs together.  I eschew ornate frames–a simple frame does not compete with the image for the viewer’s attention.  I tend to go with wider frames for larger pictures, but overall I like them thin.  Kind of like thin neckties–classy, and eternal.  A sealing tape around the inside frame edge is sometimes used to protect the contents from acids in the wood frame.

Framing example, 2010


For the back I use a piece of archival foam core to sandwich the mounted print against the mat.  I use simple, bendable tacks to hold the contents into the frame.  Although not the most permanent solution, it allows me great flexibility to swap prints in and out of frames, so long as they are the same aspect ratio and print size.  I tend to standardize on print sizes and aspect ratios (i.e. if I’m going to crop it will be in one of the preferred aspect ratios), doing so allows me to easily reuse any of the frames from my collection for that size.  For the same reason I do not seal the back, unless I am planning to house the print rather more permanently in the frame.  It’s probably the greatest omission for longevity for pieces I exhibit, but it can be easily done at any frame shop by the buyer if they decide to purchase the piece.  If not, then I can repurpose the frame for the next show.

For glazing, I’m tending toward plain glass these days.  I find that for most exhibit lighting it doesn’t make that much difference for viewing over the more expensive UV or antireflective glass.  Many people don’t realize that regular glass does offer a fair degree of UV protection for a print, and also protects against the harmful ozone and airborne pollution attacks on the print.  For true archival quality of course UV glass is preferred and I will select it for work that I seal and hang on my walls as part of my own “permanent” collection.  I’m tending away from acrylic these days.  It’s more easily scuffed when cleaning it and just doesn’t have the quality “feel” that I am looking for.

There you have it.  Although I do frame my work myself still quite often, I have most of my frames made for me by Brian Tanimoto and company down at Tanimoto Gallery and Framing in downtown Hilo.  They do outstanding work.  If I’m pressed for time I have them frame it to these specifications.

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