framing

My Printing Woes by Art Zaratsyan

I used to love that moment when the printer comes to life and you hear the head begin to move. I would anticipate the beautiful print coming out of the slit out front, smelling like fresh ink, and would sit there watching the magic happen… Well last night changed that. Last night I wasted 8—eight!—sheets of very expensive paper (Hahnemühle Fine Art Photo Rag, beautiful 308 gsm 100% cotton paper sold at $125+tax in local stores for a pack of 25 sheets).

Print after print, my Epson Stylus Pro 3880 spat out the paper with discoloured stripes running along the image. I tried tweaking all possible settings, sensing panic slowly setting in. Sometimes it would print okay, making me think I found the problem, mocking me, and then it would turn bad again!

Running all the tests on the printer and ruling it out as the source of the problem, I ran a system check on my old trusty 13 inch MacBook Pro. What do you know! Turns out that my hard drive had lots of errors on it. So many that the Disk Utility gave up on it and “recommended” that I reformat it and restore my system from a backup. Always back up your important files, bad things happen, too often if you ask me!

Thinking, well, that must be what it was, I fired up the freshly restored computer and tried to print. Yargh! Again, it is no good! I tried plugging into a different USB port, switching to ethernet instead of USB, restarting the laptop and the printer and printing with a freshly booted system, tweaking all possible performance settings in Photoshop…

I began to get desperate and tired. At around 4:30 am, as my Mac began to glitch like I've never seen before, with even Safari crashing every second and prospects of figuring this out beginning to seem quite grim, I gave up and went to bed.

This morning I woke up, fired up the laptop, plugged in the printer into the ethernet router, disabled the Time Machine backups, started a print job fully expecting it to fail again and—what?!—the Epson spat out a perfect print!

Well, probably a fluke again, I thought, moving on. I scheduled the next print job, perfect again! Then again, and again, all day!

Now, why would I not be happy about that, you ask?

Why would I be?! What was the problem, and how I did I fix it? Did I fix it? Is it mocking me again?!

Was it the Time Machine backup daemon? Was it because my laptop somehow cooled off overnight? Was it voodoo? Or… is it mocking me again?!

—Yaaargh!!!

Other than that things are good. How are you?

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.