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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Keys To Proper Print Display

There's an art and a science to framing photographs. Steve Gorman is a professional photographer who also runs one of the most respected framing shops anywhere.

Suitable For FramingWhen I was growing up, my parents had a framer. I don't mean we went to a framing store like Aaron Brothers; I mean we had a framer. He was an artist by trade and had opened a small framing shop where he'd contemplate the perfect complement to whatever new piece of artwork came in from his clients. The shop was small and cluttered and, as a kid, I was admonished not to touch anything—an impossible request of a boy surrounded by such cool props as mat boards, framing rails and specialized tools that he had never seen before. What I didn't realize then, but is so obvious to me now, is that what my parents' framer did—something that seemed so insignificant—was absolutely critical for the proper display of the art that came into that shop.

Framing isn't an afterthought in the creative process. In many cases, it can make or break the artwork within. No one knows this better than Steve Gorman. Out of his shop in Costa Mesa, Calif., Gorman combines his background as a skilled professional photographer with his encyclopedic knowledge of framing materials and a visual sensibility that simply can't be taught to bring the essence of an image to the forefront. These days, Gorman is as much in demand as he ever was and, with the onslaught of prints output by digital printers, he has had to make adjustments to compensate for certain peculiarities inherent to digital prints.


At the core of any discussion of framing digital prints is the archival aspect. Archivability has always been a hot issue for professionals, but with digital prints, it seems to have mushroomed from a concern into a fiery debate. Printers, inks and papers come to the market, and the first thing we ask is “Are the prints archival?” Too many photographers are unaware that the materials used to display a print play at least as important a role in the permanence of an image as paper and ink.

“We don't do our own testing here,” says Gorman. “I rely on [Henry] Wilhelm and some others who make it their business to evaluate longevity and stability of archival materials. However, we do talk with those guys regularly to find out what's what on the archival front. A little while ago, I had a situation with some prints that were yellowing in splotches. I called Henry, and he told me just to put them outside in the sun. After a while, they turned completely yellow, and then a little while after that, they were fine.

It seems there was a chemical that needed to get out. Things like that happen, especially when some photographers use unorthodox materials, so we're mindful of what we do when we're framing.”


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