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Monday, October 9

More on borders


I've always though that a narrow, black frame with a white card mount was the classiest way to present a black and white print. It still is in many instances. However, having just spent some time mucking about in Photoshop with various borders, I've developed a liking for a black card mount with a thin white border to the print, possibly finished by a narrow silver or aluminium frame.

See what you think yourself - there are quite a few options for you to view below. The first two prints, Paddling Pool and The Suburban Line, definitely, to my eyes, look better with the white border and black mount.  I probably prefer the third one, Mattress, with a white mount but there's not a lot in it. I've captioned them 1A, 1B, etc, again for ease of reference.

There's no doubt that the mat and frame make a significant difference to the appearance of the print, more so, I'd say, than any slight differences between developers, films or lenses and yet we're far more likely to obsess over these minor details than mounting and framing. Food for thought.















2K This one added for Alan in the comments.









Alan C. said...

Very interesting and a lot to think about here before I want to attempt any useful comments....except for one thing. Black mounts used to be very fashionable in the camera club I was in years ago. In your Photoshop mock-ups the black mount is the same "black" as the photograph it contains, so the two live nicely side by side. But in the real world the particular black of the mount rarely matched the black of the photograph, either in intensity or warmth or coolness. So black mounts round black and white photographs never looked right to me. But they were popular!


Bruce Robbins said...

Thinking back, Alan, that could well be what put me off them as well during my two-year spell at Dundee Photographic Society.That was 15 years ago. I really need to make an effort to see some real prints at an exhibition to get familiar with this stuff again.

Alan C. said...

Years ago another popular colour for photographic mounts was cream. I remember being at some photographic event where a speaker pointed to his nice shiny white mounts and told us how much better they were than those nasty old-fashioned cream mounts that nobody with any taste should be using. The next speaker on the stage was John Blakemore. Guess what colour his mounts were...Cream!


Bruce Robbins said...

Good story! Just added a cream one under The Suburban Line. Is that near it?

Alan C. said...

Thanks Bruce. Its cream! Doesn't seem to work...maybe it would with a warm-toned or Sepia print.


Doug H said...

Some pictures of exhibits managed by Steglitz or Fredrick Evans show quite a hodge-podge of mat colors and framing. My recent experience with camera clubs were extremists as to mat & frame color [white mat in black frame]. Ideally, the mat and frame choice should be whatever enhances the image; but that would be a hard-sell with curators and judges.

Herman Sheephouse said...

Herein lies madness or something like that!

It's like the staring at printed black blocks on a white sheet of paper thing and waiting for the grey dots to appear in the white intersections . . .

To my eye light grey. I feel the black makes the print too heavy (though the white border did balance it up a bit) and the white washed things out whereas grey . . maybe I am just a grey person though, Mr Grey of Grey Street in Greysville . . . the grey balanced things a bit . . one thing though - the photos are really good Bruce - especially like mattress . . so which bit of this lovely city was that?

Bruce Robbins said...

Thanks, Phil. That bit of grotography was done at the World Heritage Site known as Dryburgh Industrial Estate. You should have a nosey - nice and quiet should you want to get the 5x4 out. I could put an X on a map for you as I think the mattress might still be there. I counted three the last time I was there. Haha.

Alan C. said...

Years ago when I was in a camera club we used to get regular visits from a speaker who also sold mount materials. He always had a big stock of mount card in lots of different colours. To encourage sales his own colour prints were mounted in a big range of different colours. I always felt, sitting back in the fourth row, that some of these colours worked better than others. The ones that always looked odd were the cool colours, such as blue grey. It's well known that cool colours seem to recede, and warm colours seem to advance, and this phenomenon always made cool coloured mounts look as though they were behind the photograph. Because another part of the brain knew that the mount was really in front of the photograph, the overall effect was rather disconcerting, and definitely to be avoided.
What has this got to do with anything here where there are no colour photographs and no coloured mounts? Maybe nothing! But if others here are, like me, intrigued by the idea of experimenting with grey mounts - which do seem to offer good possibilities - then it might be worth bearing in mind that a neutral grey, or a slightly warm grey might give the best results. But a cool grey may be best avoided.


Herman Sheephouse said...

Three - great - if I get time I am there!

Martyn Lacey said...

Interesting subject this....I must admit I seldom notice the borders when I visit exhibitions. This could mean that the borders are unobtrusive or my eyesight is so bad now that I only focus on the print.
I have a liking for the grey with the narrow white border but looking at my own prints here I see I have mostly gone with white narrow and black wide. Having said that I also have some with black narrow and white wide, I used to be indecisive but now I'm not sure.
So I deduce from this that I probably make a decision based on the tones in the print.
Interesting the RPS recommendation to distinction applicants is not to mix the mount colours. If submitting colour prints this is probably good advice but if submitting monochrome prints then that advice may or may not be so good.

DavidM said...

I think you're right.
Those borders are making more difference to way I see the images than any changes in developer. I'm still looking; I'll continue to look for a while. I do think that the examples with a digital frame are a step too far, which is exactly as it should be for a test.

When prints are displayed on a wall, do we perceive the frame itself as part of the room, rather than part of the picture? At the recent exhibition of Elton John's collection, he'd been to a lot of trouble to have sets of related prints in identical frames. Some of the frames were very decorative and some purists complained. I found that after mentally noting the differences, it was no problem to be absorbed by the images. Not so easy to suppress the green eyes.

Alan C: I have a Blakemore print on the wall behind me. Warm-coloured mount yes. Cream? Not really.

Martyn: It seems reasonable to have your submission mounted consistently, whatever you choose. Mixed colours would look as if your submission was slung together from random boxes under the bed. Best to avoid something that they specifically state that they don't like, if the purpose of submitting is to get the distinction.

My contact in a camera club tell me that all prints must now be mounted on a standard sized board. I think they still like black.

One thing I've noticed is that a single black-mounted print in the hand looks very different from a row of gloomy black rectangles on a wall. This is another factor which might influence our choices.

Alan C. said...

David, I didn't mean to imply that Blakemore always uses cream mounts. But I have seen quite a few rich cream ones. I once had the privilege of sitting with an entire exhibition of his work on my knee and looking slowly through it and at the same time discussing the prints with him. And these weren't in cream mounts.
Your point about perceiving frames as part of the room rather than part of the picture is an interesting one, and depends, I think, in part on the colour and tone of the walls. (Just to add further complications...)


MartyNL said...

Off-white for me. What you may find is that photos with a lot of “positive space” probably work better with a lighter passe-partout and conversely images with a lot of “negative space” with a darker one.

It’s all a load of “Gestalt” if you ask me!

DavidM said...

Alan: No, I don't take it that way at all, but "cream" suggests a sort of brightish yellowish pale colour – 1950s hospital corridor. (Does that make sense?). I was merely trying to be more precise. I don't think I've ever seen a Blakemore on a black mount. It's certainly a delight to see his prints in real life. Have you seen his negs?
It seems to me that in general, black mounts increase something called "impact" – a very desirable quality in camera clubs. For bodies of work, I suggest that the mounts should take a back seat. As for mixing mount colours, it seems a rather odd idea, but for some projects, it might be exactly right.
And yes, wall colour might be another factor. I knew one photographer who prepared for an exhibition by making different versions of his work, light, medium and dark, and took them along to the venue to decide how to print the final versions. It must have worked, because he sold most of them.
All this is in the context of arty prints. For the domestic wall, things might be different. Matching the curtains might seem more important.

Alan C. said...

David, the cream I was referring to is quite pale, definitely not hospital corridor, or Cornish clotted or even nappy beige.
Mountboard manufacturers seem to do a range of boards with the word "white" in their description. "Antique White", "Soft White", "Polar white" etc. All subtly different but viewed in isolation they all look, well, white! Then they do a cream. Very pale, but noticably not "white". This is what I meant.
Regarding wall colour; at the local museum where I work as a volunteer we have a gallery that shows exhibitions of painting and photography. We routinely paint the walls to suit each exhibition. Sometimes the next artist in likes the wall colour from the last exhibition and this saves us a job. The successful colours are all quite dark, usually variations of warm or cold grey. The current exhibition, which features large charcoal drawings , looks quite stunning, with "white" mounts against a dark background. Not sure I'd like this wall colour in my lounge though...


DavidM said...

Alan: I know the sort of thing you mean. We haven't, so far, discussed print colour. Once upon a time, unless you used Record Rapid, selenium-toned, you weren't a Real Photographer at all. Those warm prints must have influenced the mount colour. Conversely the f64 gang preferred cold or neutral prints. We're seeing Bruce's excellent examples in the way our screens dictate.

I've been looking at Bruce's examples again...
It appears to my eye that the black mounts, by providing a key, seem to bring out more shadow detail. I didn't expect this. Is it an effect of screen viewing? The highlights look a bit brighter, perhaps too bright, as I did expect. Interesting. I still think that groups of black mounts are visually oppressive.

The thin key lines seem OK to me, but the thick keylines (outlines?) have the same scale as details in the image and behave as if they were part of it. We can visualise a cut-off wall or lamp-post at the edge of the frame that would look very similar. The broad white line on the black mount seems to shriek out and grab more attention than the image itself.

It's very handy to have the mid-grey mounts as a reference, but I can't bring myself to like them. Just a bit too middle-of-the-road, somehow. Others may differ.

For myself, I think I shall stick to some sort of not-quite-white mounts, perhaps tending towards Alan's non-corridor cream.

And a last thought: Because this discussion is screen-based, we haven't been able to discuss texture.