Matting and Signature / by Art Zaratsyan

Presentation. Until recently I have had very little interest in, or given barely any thought to such fine art print presentation details as frame size, width and colour, matting texture, colour of matting, spacing, signature, so on and so forth. I find photographers have a common personality trait. Some call it attention to details, some call it obsessive compulsion…

But no matter how you name it, we all believe that the devil is in the details. And we can't rest until we've reached perfection, or at least come as close as possible, given the budget, tools or time.

For the upcoming show, for almost a month already, I've been getting dizzy trying to find the right style of framing for the prints. First choice of the frame was too big (18 x 24 inches) for the print size (11 x 16 inches on 13 x 19 inch paper). The vast amounts of whitespace around it made the print seem much smaller than it really was, giving me the feeling like it was being squished from all sides—huh?

Then I tried a tighter frame, as tight as it can be: 13 x 19 inches, the size of the paper itself. That worked better, for multiple reasons. There was less work to mount the prints, just sandwiching them between the backboard and mat was enough, which would save a ton of time once you scaled it times fifty! Also, the print size became more prominent. But something was just not right with the white matting around it. It looked… cheap? Weak?

I tried double-matting. That worked better than single-matting, but just wasn't good enough yet. (Plus it doubled the projected costs for matting, which isn't that cheap once you have committed to archival fine-art quality of your materials!)

Finally today, partly out of desperation, partly because I was bored and was looking for something to do, I gave a black mat a try. I had a sheet left from last year, so I said why not? and began cutting. I knew that making the mat window too tight would suffocate the print, would cause it to appear too dark and daunting, which would not reflect the spirit of the exhibition at all! So I let the print show about a half inch of its whitespace through the window, and that worked! And it left enough room for the date and the signature, which I neatly penciled in at the bottom-right—vertically—because we're artsy and we have to show off. This would be a perfect place to type a smiley… No! I must resist!

Long journey over. I can finally stop obsessing and focus on the production of the rest of the prints!

And maybe see a therapist once it's all over.