Thursday, July 30, 2009

Living with My Photography

(Click on the thumbnail for the bigger, better version)

Recently, I mentioned the joys of hanging prints in our house and the more I thought about it, the more I realized how important it is to me to have some images on view.

Because our previous house was small, there weren’t many places to hang a 16x20 framed piece and I had never hung a 20x24 frame there. It was those old days of severely limited display space that was uppermost in my mind when I made those comments a while back, and I am getting a big kick out of seeing prints that previously were only hung at shows, or never before even printed, much less hung.

On the other hand, even back then, with more limited options for display, I was surrounded by prints. In the last couple of years that we lived in that house, I had come up with a makeshift way to keep me focused on what I was doing and why. I collected test prints, some of which were proofs either for clients, or pieces that were to be shown somewhere, and some that I had printed out of curiosity, after experimenting with a processing technique. Most of the proofs were 4x6 or 5x7, but, in a few cases, I printed 8x10.

The next step involved what I first came to know as “museum stick”. This reusable adhesive (one brand is Handi-Tak) had long been a staple item in our home. (In earthquake country, you want to have something around that holds valuable items secure when the earth starts rockin’ and rollin’.) One of the beauties of this sticky stuff is that it won’t damage finishes. (It’s always a good idea to test any product like this on the back or underside of a surface before proceeding. But I will say that I never found anything damaged by it, and we used a great deal of it.) Thanks to this handy adhesive and a stack of prints, I put prints in little nooks and crannies where I either couldn’t have, or wouldn’t have, thought of hanging a framed print.

Mostly, I stuck those prints on the insides of cabinet doors. The beauty of that casual treatment was no unsightly clutter on the outside and no need to matte the prints, much less frame them. Flexibility was a major bonus. I could change my display on any old whim. If I opened the medicine cabinet seeking relief from a tummy-ache, or some way to deal with a small cut that couldn’t be handled with a wad of tissue, I was greeted by a photo of our purple geraniums. A trip to the linen cabinet might include photos of beautiful horses galloping about, or standing just so with ears forward and eyes flashing. Reaching for a glass in a kitchen cupboard yielded a reminder of a favorite scene from a road trip.

It was an informal, simple, flexible, inexpensive (to say the least) way to display photos—dozens of photos, and I hadn’t realized how much I was missing that until we began hanging the larger framed pieces here. Now, I just have to find that museum stick-um that’s in one of those boxes somewhere. On second thought, maybe I’ll add it to a shopping list.

NOTE: Handi-Tak is available at Michael's Craft Stores and, today, I found QuakeHold! at Amazon.


  1. Love the little critter on the fence post, coupled with the beautiful warm flowers, Anita. Great photo.

    I always enjoy reading your writings, as much as I do viewing your photos. Always so please when I open the blog and see a new post--and this is a great idea. Where do you buy museum stick...stuff? I get lazy about framing my photos, but would not mind hanging them in various places as you suggest. But I don't think I've ever heard of the sticky stuff...maybe its a West coast thing??

    Finally, you made a comment on my blog about the 100 mm macro--and I want to love it, but I'm struggling with it, for sure. I am having a heck of a time catching a good focus with it. My 24 -105 has me spoiled! Practice, I guess!

    Have a good one, thank you for sharing, as always! Mary Ann

  2. I like the idea of using the inside cabinet door space to hang prints. I'd have the house in wall-to-wall prints if the wife didn't keep me in check. :-)

    I often struggle when selecting a single photo for a larger framed piece, especially if it's something I'm hanging in my own home. I'm very critical of my work and I see every "defect" or "deficiency" when it gets to making that final choice. What process do you go through for saying/determining this photo works and this one doesn't? Just curious!

  3. First, what a beautiful picture! Next: Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Stick the knife in deeper! Twist! Must ... hang ... pictures ... on ... wall!!! :-)

  4. Anita, I'll bet you find you have too many decent photos to display them all. Have you figured a solution?

  5. Mary Ann - Your question sent me looking for sources and I added them to the post above. These products probably are more of a necessity for those of us in earthquake country, but they are also great for small pieces that might be brushed against by a person or an animal, and I bet the stuff prevents many a mishap where small children roam.

    I agree that the relationship with a macro lens is a demanding one. As you mentioned, that 24-105mm f/4 will spoil you rotten. For that reason, I don't use the macro often. For one thing, we have a great deal of wind here. Not really conducive to macro photography. But, when it's called for and with patience, the lens is a beauty. I know you will come to terms with its challenges. Good luck.

    I am glad that you enjoyed our cheeky little ground squirrel. His burrow is below, and he loves the veiw from his penthouse roof.

  6. Earl - I am fortunate that my husband is extremely tolerant and enjoys seeing my photos framed. He pushes me to do more. Still, neither of us can tolerate the look of every inch of a wall covered with prints. We need some blank space for things to breathe.

    If I only hung things that I felt were absolutely great, I would never hang, or even print, anything. I have had to learn to see each piece as merely part of a work in progress. Furthermore, I need to view any displays as temporary. I could never settle on a photo as "the" one to display, because nothing I do would ever be good enough. It goes up on display for now. Later, I can change my mind.

    Each time I frame a print, I have reservations about sharing it and have to resist the urge to "take it back." I am always tempted to wait until I have something better to show.

    "What process do you go through for saying/determining this photo works and this one doesn't? Just curious!"
    Wow! Any easy questions in there, Earl?

    Okay, hang on now, because this may get extremely technical and very, very deep. You know what a highly skilled and experienced technician I am. ;)

    If I keep coming back often enough to look at one of those 4x6 prints littering my desk and it makes me smile or think, if it brings back the emotions I felt when I was there, if it makes my heart sing, I forgive the flaws in my pathetic attempts to execute, and I will consider hanging it up. If The Husband, says "Wow!", it is a definite candidate because he is not an easy critic.

    Still, there is always that bargain I make with myself that I am displaying a work in progress. I have a very long way to go before I am good at this and I have to fight to remember that. If I am not careful when I view the work of inspiring photographers, I get discouraged and become convinced that everything I have done should be deleted.

    Now, it's your turn, Earl.

  7. Paul - I am so glad you like the photo. I wish the daisies could last for months and months longer.

    Now, did I mention your name in the post? Of course, I didn't. Witness. There is no weapon in my hand. Me thinks the voice that tickles the ear is thine own, kind sir.

  8. Bob - Oh, my, I have to refer you back to my long soul-baring response to Earl's scary question. I barely think any of my photos qualify as decent. I imagine my answer to Earl reveals what a mess I am. Yet, I am just enjoying the process.

  9. Anita, sometimes there will be a photo I feel attracted to for reasons much as you described, "it brings back the emotions I felt when I was there, if it makes my heart sing."

    I don't always trust these feelings. My own experience has shown that often these attractions are due more to my own personal filters and experiences rather then some widely apparent appeal of the actual photo.

    Where you have the husband WOW factor I rely on the wife WOW meter which I put value in.

    This selection and grading process makes me ask myself the question what would be good enough to me. Would I ever make a photo that I could honestly be 100% (not 98% or 99%) satisfied with?

    Sadly, there was a point in time I would have said no, but I'm in a better place now and have come to be more accepting of the perfection of my imperfections. ;-)

    Of course I suspect you secretly have a 100% sure fired technically superior selection system ( SFTSSS ) which you're just not willing to share here. ~wink~ LOL

  10. Earl - That SFTSSS sounds fantastic. Where do I get one and how fast can I get it?

    It sounds as if we are in a similar place. I know my judgements are as imperfect as my photographs and have made my peace with living with the messisness of it all. I figure that as long as I am only slightly satisfied with the promise of a photograph rather than thinking it's 100%, I will keep working and learning and that is what makes it all worthwhile.

    Isn't it great to have a live-in WOW meter? Especially when you sometimes can't get that meter to go off and that gives you confidence that the device doesn't have hair trigger.

  11. That's a lovely picture, especially with all those yellow flowers below....

    Agreed that any in-house WOW meter should never have a hair trigger. My live-in one is similar. Hate it [sometimes. or should I say mostly]when she goes "well...... um... lets see... now what were you trying to really convey in this picture?"

  12. Anil - Thank you so much for your comment on the photo.

    Sometimes the readout from the WOW meter leaves a bruise, right? But, of course, that's the only way we can trust the "Wow's" when we do get them.

  13. I really need to get better on doing prints, that's the plain and simple truth. Heck, I need to get a decent printer too. The reusable adhesive you use sounds great, it's a wonderful idea to use it on places you normally wouldn't hang any pictures. I would have a few on the toilette, the perfect gallery where everybody stay focused, instead of hanging around the table with free drinks. :)

  14. Ove - Your next party will be the talk of the town. You will create a longer line waiting outside that door, but you may save on drinks. Who knows where this idea could lead? :)

    I have gotten better at printing with practice, but I destroyed a great deal of paper and wasted considerable ink in the process. It is worth the effort. Go for it.

  15. With so many options emerging for displaying photographs, I do wonder if the frame's days are numbered. Brooks Jensen recently did a podcast about the outrageous cost of framing which made so many good points.

    I have photographs hanging on my walls that I would rather see changed out, but often just too lazy to reframe them. Maybe sticky puddy is the way to go!

  16. Mark - Have you experimented with digital frames? I'm a litle curious, but haven't tried one yet.

    Label me old-fashioned, because I want a predominance of frames. However, I plan to experiment with several options for putting work up in some parts of the house. Of course, as the resident decorator here, I get quite a bit of leeway when it comes to these choices.

  17. @Anita: I have put up some pictures using foam core board that has adhesive on one side. It gives a nice, modern look and is pretty cheap. I have a stack of 8x10 foam board at home (Charlotte), but I don't do any printing on the weekend. I think that I need to move my printing operations down to Charleston. :-) I'm tired of looking at those bare walls! Besides, you have, as usual, inspired me to print.

    The foam board is about $44 for 15, or $3 each. They are self-adhesive, but not archival. If your are interested, you can get them here:

  18. Paul - Hooray and congratulations!! Those bare walls will get you down. Here's to an ever-changing display of your work.

    When it comes to inspiration, I haven't forgotten that an earlier post of yours in which you mentioned displaying prints using the foam core was instrumental in my doing more printing and displaying.

    The idea of the foam core is quite interesing to me. I happen to have a nice collection of mats that I bought some time back because they were an amazing bargain. When I finish off those mats—or when I have something that won't fit one of those, I will join the foam core brigade.

    One of the subjects that has caused some of the percolating in my brain is more methods for displaying work—methods that provide flexibility along with moderate investment. The foam core is bound to figure in that mix. Thanks for the link.


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