Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Print Mounting


It's probably a good time to experiment with  print mounting if you have some rejects floating around.

Before that though many thanks for your comments re Joe and Agnes and Shan. A quick answer in reply to the relative values of the approaches in style. I'd say unequivocally that there can be no comparison in the value of one style over the other. It is important that we, and I don't just mean you and I but all professional photographers, have respect for other peoples' style. But I find it difficult to handle images which have poor technique (and find them being lauded by curators) and will continue to be critical in that respect. I think, in particular with B&W silver work, that it's important to push technical standards up to the limits. It's important not only from the point of personal satisfaction but also because world standards are extremely high and we need to match them.

Anyway, that aside, I want to get the issue of mounting out of the way. It's become tricky in recent years simply because both of us are familiar with dry mounting and it is now next to impossible to get archival tissue in Australia.

So, in my opinion, there are two avenues.

The first is not to permanently mount the prints at all. I see nothing wrong with using the tried and tested system of using archival tape to hinge mount prints in a matt. This has several advantages not the least of which is if the mount board is damaged over time it is a simple matter to remount/matt the print. This technique also allows the print to hang in the mount/matt which allows an air flow around it. Providing high quality acid free board is used the print will virtually last forever.

The principle, in fact I think the only, disadvantage of this system is that prints can be subject to warping, causing an undulating surface. This can be unsightly and is caused by changes in temperature and humidity.  The effect can be restricted by having a print with a very wide border. This doesn't entirely eliminate the effect but it does restrict it. I tend to print an image of about 12x16 inches on a 16x20 sheet of paper. That gives a 2inch border which helps a lot. It's also worth noting that prints, if they deteriorate at all, will do so from the very edges of the paper. This is often caused by insufficient washing and residual acid being left in the paper. It's a simple matter to trim those edges off.

I know many people see this as a waste of paper but I think that in any event it makes a nice presentation. Another thing I try to encourage collectors to do is not mount prints at all but keep them in a Solander box. They're expensive but are perfect protection for silver prints. Collectors can then underline the value of images by showing viewers prints on a viewing table under good light and wearing cotton gloves while handling them. I'm all in favour of getting prints out and talking about them in a group situation or one to one.

That said and done how do we get around 'proper' mounting - bonding the print to rag matt board - if we wish to?

For some years I have been using a product sold by Zeta Florence in Melbourne <http://www.zettaflorence.com.au/>. They stock all manner of archival materials, neg bags, Solander boxes etc. I use pure rice starch paste with neutral ph made by Lineco inc in Holyoke, USA (I left a bottle with you). Its not cheap but is cheaper than dry mounting and, to my mind, a lot better once you get a technique buttoned down. Hence needing a little practice.

It's very easy to mix up. The powder is talc fine and mixes very easily with water. It's important to follow the mixing quantities. In effect it's a very high quality wallpaper paste.

It's important to find a technique which suits you. I cut the matt and the mount board to the respective sizes and put to one side the centre from the matt.

I then use a couple of small hinges, using archival tape, to fix the print in position in the matt.

Now use a wide high quality brush to 'paint' the board evenly. The paste spreads easily and evenly. This takes a little trial and error as different boards have different absorption rates. It's important not to be over generous with the paste, nor to be too mean.

When the board is covered take the print and matt and gently lay them onto the pasted surface of the board. I actually find it easier to lay the print and matt face down and put the board on top. Doing that means the print doesn't flop about.

If you've done that turn the print over, face up, and put the centre of the matt into the original space. Now, take either a piece of glass of sufficient size to cover the print and mount or use the dry mounting press (with no heat) and place the mounted print under very gentle pressure. Remember that it is important to ensure there are no air bubbles in the print but I've never had a problem using this system. By gentle pressure I mean that it's important to strike a balance between ensuring that the print bonds evenly without the texture of the board showing through onto the surface of the print. As this is a wet process there is a danger that the board can swell.

The end result is the best I've had - better than dry mounting. It takes a little longer. And the big plus is that it is a reversible process. If the matt or mount become damaged it is only necessary to soak the whole lot in water and the print will float off. It will then be possible to remount it.

This is probably not a great example. I let the light reflect from
the surface of the print which is in fact absolutely  flat.
It looks a little textured as the canvas background
in the picture makes it look that way

I think that's covered that issue and I hope we can try a few prints when I come down in June (6-10).

Before I go can I have a moment of self indulgence? I went out on Anzac Day in Fremantle and shot a lot of (digital) snaps - just street shooting which I love and find quite relaxing. I was particularly pleased with a shot of an old Anzac being wheeled onto the parade ground. As this happened he reached into his jacket pocket, whipped out a hip flask and took a few swigs of something - I don't think it was lemonade.

Anzac Day Parade, Fremantle Esplanade, 2011                                                                                                 ©Roger Garwood


  1. Decided adhesive mounting of any kind is not worth the effort and archival compromise resulting Roger. I was the one complaining to you about warping and rippling of large prints due to fluctuations in heat and humidity and scrimping on print margin areas exaggerates this as you mention. AA discussed this at length 50 years ago!

    I am happy to print allowing minimum of 2 inches border on the paper with prints larger than 8 x 10 inches and free mount them with paper hinges and to hell with the surface fluctuations. The dangers of using even archival adhesives exceeds the desire for super flat prints in my opinion.

  2. In fact I might go so far as saying perhaps it's a mark of authenticity with fibre based photographic prints as opposed to 'plastic' resin coated photographic papers and machine made digital prints.

  3. I do reckon the instructions above are very concise and useful though Roger. Perhaps worth using with 8 x 10 inch prints but not those on 20 x 24 paper. Will try a few small prints with your sample bottle... thanks mate.

    The Anzac image is great, love the young woman's fond smile as she pushes her grandfather? perhaps through the park noticing his restorative tipple! Real emotion there. Thanks

  4. Dewi, it's a good point re the 'mark of autheticity'. I hadn't thought of that and it's good line to work on.

    Re the Anzac. I hope I can find somebody that attractive when I'm his age! On a serious note I'm finding time to do a lot more casual shooting. That's mainly because I like the jpg software for B&W in the little Leica D Lux 5.
    I've also got my daylight studio up and running. You'll like it and I'll be posting some pics on the blog later this week. I'll be interested to hear your comments.