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Saturday, 09 February 2013


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That is lovely. Really, really, really nicely done. I've always been uneasy about the 12th commandment (#11: Don't get caught, #12: only use white or near-white mats) myself.

Love This! Not least of which it reminds me that we did a lot of this gray over-matting back in the early 70's...boy am I old...ran across some of the ones I did back then, recently when going through a bunch of stuff in my storage space, and thought to myself...yes....

Just have to say - happy Chinese New Year and wish you all have a healthy snake year.

The photo looks great and the framing is perfect (IMHO) - [ Jeff ]

Nice job, Carl! That's a fine presentation of that image.

I standardized on a neutral gray matt with a black core a couple of years back for my street art images. The image area is about 12X18 on an 18X24 matt, with the opening cut oversize by about 1/8" to show a border of the paper white. Always Ilford GFS in my case.

That really makes the image pop - the gray brings out the colors of spray paint on walls.

When I started, I was having the matts cut by a local shop, but that proved too expensive when I had a 30 piece show to put up at a restaurant in Berkeley, so I bought a matt cutter and started cutting my own.

Turned out that I'd shot myself in the foot. Black core mattboard is NOT the stuff to learn matt cutting on - completely unforgiving, every hesitation and wiggle shows up like a sore thumb.

And now, my local frame shop can't get the same board anymore, and I'm stuck with a big (over 50 prints) inventory I can no longer match exactly.

Thus is life.

I'm glad you see there are other sides to this. Staging an exhibition, especially a one-person show, it makes a lot of sense to use a standard, very low-key mount such as an off-white. That way the mounts don't jump around (in tone and colour) which helps the integral feel which is probably what's wanted.

On the other hand, preparing prints for display in the individual spaces of a home (or office) gives much more freedom in the choice of frame and mount, and a coloured and/or double mount can actually enhance the image of done correctly. It certainly draws attention to the "importance" of the image, and that's sometimes ok, too.

I've got to admit, though, that if I want to hang new prints in our own home, I just stick 'em in any frames that are handy.

Well, it plays with the other logic some people apply - choose a mat/frame colour according to a key colour in the photo, in this case, echoing with the warmth of the light (on the tree).

Mighty nice result, too :)

I keep creating pictures (though I don't print and frame enough), and do occasionally buy pictures by others (though not often enough, and I'm many hundreds of dollars behind on framing).

Thus, I have more photos than I have wall space. This means I both put multiple photos in most areas of the wall, and that I change them around now and then rather than just leaving things up forever.

Thus, I have to consider how my frame and mat choices will work near arbitrary other frames and mats not currently known to me. I find this a strong push to keep it simple, and keep it neutral. I still have to worry about whether the pictures themselves can go near each other, but that's unavoidable.

I wonder if this is partly why museums tend towards simple matting?

With digital, I think the logic of printing photographs disappeared. As much as I like this framing job, and I do, I see "framing" here, not "photograph." The art of the print has become a different discipline. For example, we here are all looking at this photograph, and 90 percent of photographs, digitally--on a monitor of some kind. There is something not quite right anymore at looking at a photograph hung on the wall--anywhere, anyhow--and calling it a photograph.

Unless, of course, we want to argue for "the print" instead of "the photo." Two completely different products.

Good-bye, Ansel, with all our best wishes.

Mike wrote,

"But here's a P.S. to the recent framing posts...remember how I said I never use anything but white mats? Well, look what Carl Blesch did..."

How about no mat! Years ago I photographed one of my music student's hands on the piano. I wanted to frame/mat a 16x20 print, and I went to my custom frame shop at that time. We spent almost an hour trying out different frame/combinations to no avail. Finally she said, Leave it with me over night so I can think about it.

The next day she showed me her solution: A 2" beveled ebony frame with a 1/8" light silver frame inset into which the print was inserted to keep it from touching the glass.

I think it was a good solution. (It looks a lot better hanging on my off-white wall then here!)



Mike - This has nothing to do with framing but I thought it might cheer you up, enjoy.


That's a wonderful presentation for an excellent image, Carl. Very nicely done.

Presentation -- frame, no frame, matting, size, .. -- is all about what the piece needs within the intended context. Carl's choice of a classic, slightly old-time, mount for this image fits perfectly with this classic, slightly old-time image. It will look perfectly presented 50 years from now.

Bill Faulkner wrote

"There is something not quite right anymore at looking at a photograph hung on the wall--anywhere, anyhow--and calling it a photograph."

This is a very strange sentiment . depends on how you like to consume your photographs surely?

To Richard--

The paradigm right now is the one set by those of us acting out film. When this generation dies off, the assumptions won't have changed, they simply won't be there any longer.

As a point, you practice your craft taking photographs (digitally) and then you hand off your achievement to someone whose craft is framing or printing? Ponder it. In the past, we needed the print to communicate with others. Today we don't.

We are fighting the trend to video in our cameras (and I hate it), but maybe we are not paying attention.

Not to say that printing (or framing) is not an art form in its own right... Just not mine, or, probably, yours. Dye sub prints, platinum paper? This frame, that frame? Black and white on white walls? Don't you feel an old paradigm at work here that is losing its relevance? I am not seeing any necessary connection now between photography and printing or framing. In fact, more the opposite.


I think maybe Bill is pointing out what this forum knows well, but I myself have only come to realize as a result of reading TOP. Though I certainly played a bit with film and darkroom printing as a hobbyist amateur 20 years ago, my photography (and my eye) only really developed in the last 5 years with m4/3rds digital.

In that process I've looked at a lot online, and evaluated my own on-screen. I only recently invested in a good printer, bought good paper, and started printing stuff. And I've been absolutely blown away. My good-enough-to-print images have more subtlety than a laptop screen shows, I now see, even if my images are still amateur. If the sensor was there to witness something, and recorded it well enough, the printer shows it.

You all might know this but it is new to me. And so I immediately have picked up building my own frames and cutting my own mats. (And foisting my framed prints on tolerant friends and family, apologies to them!). And it does some like a wholly new endeavor somehow.

So I'm guessing Bill's lamentation is meant to bait a newcomer like me to go further, or something...

(and W7: nice photo and framing, btw)

Bill -

Thanks for expanding on your thoughts, but I still don't quite understand why the printed image as a means of communicatiing your photography is going to go away? Because we can view stuff online, does that mean there is no point in art galleries any more? This discussion can become very complicated of course because of the multi-faceted nature of photography. I'm always wary of trying to make broad-brush assumptions about such a varied and elusive genre.

I don't think it only exists because it was the only way in the past. I print from both film and digital - I don't see any difference. I look at a lot of stuff on-screen, but it doesn't replace the contemplation possible with a printed image (framed/mounted print on the wall). I think the ability to consume images online is actually a completely different paradigm - not a replacement.

I still might not be understanding you though.

I have been using grey mattes for 35 years. With photos, with drawings, with paintings, even as background for pictures on my computer screen.
For me, it is simply the most neutral solution. It neither overpowers the highlights nor the shadows.


...Looks pretty good, doesn't it? I feel complimented. (That same scene was lovely this morning at dawn, with fog and a blanket of new-fallen snow. I almost got the camera out.)...

I know you said that you weren't going to offer "W7" as a print again, but if the scene is just as pretty, get out the Dragoon and go take another shot. If you don't want to print it, make an arrangement with Ctein to handle the printing once he closes up the darkroom and find an equitable split to the revenue.

I had been out of work a while when W7 originally was offered, and I've been kicking myself ever since for not having ordered a print when the opportunity was there.

I'll be first in line to order one this time.

[You think that's bad, I didn't even keep a copy for myself. *BIG frowny face*. --Mike]

Not baiting anyone. Looking at the handwriting on the wall.

Check out what is happening in our culture now, say with Facebook and cell phones and so forth. The upheaval in the postal service, newspaper publishing, magazine publishing, book publishing, camera manual publishing. Paper out, digital in.

Track your prints: how many you make, how many you give out, how many are passed on, how many are kept. Precious few, as in "precious" few. This is not communication, not like in the old days. If you are lucky, the prints end up in the bathroom; if not, in a drawer or in storage somewhere.

Fellow I know takes rodeo photos. He was showing a potential customer the photo he made of him on his laptop, trying to sell him a $20 print. Potential customer whips out his cell phone, takes a photo of the monitor, says "Thank you very much," and walks away. Same thing is happening to your web site. Ninety-nine percent of photos are digital and "free" for the taking! Precious few people want a print, especially YOUR print. YOUR Galapagos photos? No, thank you, I will book a vacation and take my own.

I am not being negative. I am saying there is a way to speak to God without going through the priesthood of printing. We just need to have a conversation about it. What photography is now, not what photography was before. No fly-in-amber photography, please.

You want a modern hero? Ken Burns. Take your library of digital still photos and make a movie applying the Ken Burns effect.

Prints? Look up, there is a train coming.


Sorry, I missed your follow-up.

Nothing I am saying takes anything away from the print. It is an art form, and sometimes a great art form. All I am doing is separating the art of the print from the art of the photograph. I am saying there is nothing holding them together. So, when we talk about photography, we are not necessarily talking about printing. This was not so true in the past (with film), where the connection was necessary. In fact, the photograph became hostage to the print. Still is in our heritage mindset: The better the print, the better the photograph.

As for communication, the print is now much more limited than it used to be. Not a viable way of communicating on a large scale any more. Really pushes us into art and meaning, but then we like to think photography is about art and meaning too. And then the discussion opens way up, where we are talking BIG ideas, not just about photography and printing.

Not many of us here, even, are consuming Mike's prints. We are consuming what we see on the screen. We need to "see" that.

Hi Bill

(At the expense of trying Mike's patience with long exchanges)

Yes - I see what you are saying, but I don't think anything has changed just because of the ubiquity of online sharing. That's all a bit ephemeral to my mind. I see no paradigm shift. The essence of a photograph remains the same irrespective of how we see it. Don't want to stir a can of worms, but Barthes thoughts remain the same now as when he wrote Camera Lucida - he abstracted the notion of the photograph in much the same way as you seem to be doing by announcing the death of the print. Plus ca change.

Enjoying the thought provocation...

[Re your opening parenthetical, the moderator is mainly sensitive to escalation of antagonism, or intimations of the potential for it. You and Bill seem to be having a very civil exchange of views here...especially considering your views on the subject are opposed.... --Mike the Mod]


I don't know how far I can go in provoking everyone. I run out of steam. Especially when you introduce informed references (Barthes)! I am reminded that I am never as clever as I think I am!

Given the digital deluge, I am trying very hard to isolate what I can bring to photography now that everyone is doing it, as I am sure everyone else is trying to do to some extent. Photography has become much more accessible but at the same time it seems to me it has become much more derivative and selfish. Given this, one last line of defence from old school photographers seems to me to be the more or less esoteric printing or framing job. Their images might not be any better than those belonging to Retired Joe who just bought a Nikon D800, but, by god, the images are printed better, so there. Another last line of defence is lighting, whether from flash or LEDs. There are others. But I digress.

In this new age of digital, we need a new take on the mumbo-jumbo part of photography--the secret sauce, so to speak, of what makes a good photograph. The space we inhabit when everything comes together. Referring to printing is just kicking the can down the road. Nothing new is added. We have not come to terms with our new reality. In fact, we confuse the new reality by appealing to the old reality.

To play the devil's advocate, and I am probably pushing myself into trouble at this point, but what if I look at Mike's offering and I say to him, "Huh, Mike, I don't see anything special about your photograph." Is Mike going to say, "Well, Bill, you have to see the print to really appreciate the photograph"?

Gets kind of tricky because I am sure Mike the photographer was reasonably proud already of his photograph before he ever committed it to print, and to a particular way of printing. He didn't take the photograph thinking, wow, this is going to make a great print. Did he? Well, if he took the photograph with a film camera, then, yes, he probably did. And with a particular kind of print in mind too. That's what I mean by old reality.


P.S. I like the photo.

Bill -

I'm often fond of comparing photographing with literature, although that's not an original idea of mine. When people start to wonder what is left for them to contribute to photography, I would counsel that the written word hasn't run out of steam these days just because everyone can do it. There is a lot of diversity in being creative, informative, entertaining, sensitive etc etc with the forms of literature and I think the same is true with photography, although in a slightly narrower way. Perhaps the photograph just as an image is now overwhelmed by the deluge, but as a means of personal expression it still has plenty of legs in my opinion

There is a new magazine launching this Friday called Seities dedicated to old school photography. Film and the developing and printing thereof. They are even introducing a new toxic-free developer. Wow, progress.

We can describe it exactly if we want, Mike better than anyone. Black-and-white, taken with a Leica M3-sized camera only SLR, probably Pentax, with a f1.4 or f2.0 35mm or 50mm lens. No flash. Grainy ISO up to 3200. I don't know the papers, but we get the idea. Done.

Everything judged by the print.

Not what we mean by photography any more, but I wish them the best.

Bill - I wish them well too, but they could have chosen a more friendly name. But please, why call it "old school photography"? I wouldn't like to try and define that. Maybe "old school photographic techniques".

Just trying to hold onto the distinction that as a society we don't do film any longer and that the new "print" is the digital screen. Printing on any other medium is now a more or less independent discipline (or disciplines), separate from photography. Printing in the old ways, in other words, is not photography (now), where all our built-in biases want to say it is. Maybe the distinction I am making means nothing, but from an investing of my time and money point of view, I see decreasing returns from these prints. As esoterica or art or a hobby, absolutely nothing wrong with them.

I don't see why the "printers" can't take pride in their work, and call their profession or art form what it is: printing. Instead of borrowing "photography" to validate what they are doing. I suppose their is still some art stink attached to "prints" so we have to pull in photography to attach some cachet to them, pretend in that way there is originality intrinsic to them, when really, if the print is good enough, there is no need for that. Scan in an oil painting and make a dye sub print for example, are we going to call the print a "painting"? Call it an original print and be proud of it.

Looking forward to the Seities opening tonight. Am willing to bet that the old technology of slides and the projection of slides, without reference to printing, will figure in about zero percent of their editorial content. Just a bet. We'll see how wrong I can be. :-) I already win on the black-and-white part of it. I assume.

Waiting to be humbled.

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