A continuation of last week’s discussion on the benefits and drawbacks of face-mounting for photography conservation. Part One can be found here.
Indianapolis artist Linda Adele Goodine is represented by two photographs in the IMA collection. The first, Helios, The Golden Boy was created in 1990 and accessioned by the IMA in 1998. It is a silver dye bleach (Cibachrome) print on resin coated paper, and it is conventionally framed behind Plexiglas glazing that is held away from the photograph with spacers. The second photograph, Bella Hawk, was created in 2005. It is described as a “Polyflex” print (a silver dye bleach process print on a resin-coated paper) and it is face-mounted to an acrylic sheet and inserted into a frame. It was brought into the collection in 2010.
I sat down with Ms. Goodine at the IMA to discuss face-mounting and how this procedure has featured in her thinking regarding both her own photography and her work with photo majors at the Herron School of Art (Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis campus) where she is a Professor of Photography in the Fine Art program. We first spoke of the Cibachrome print, Helios – The Golden Boy, created in 1990, well before face-mounting became commonplace for art photography. She said that the Cibachrome prints of the time already possessed many of the qualities that are listed as virtues for face-mounted aesthetics – prominent among them is the glossy, saturated color that allows a heightened apprehension of three-dimensionality in the image. These characteristics perfectly suited her artistic vision at this time, and works such as Helios went on to private and institutional collections, housed in conventional frames fronted with glass or Plexiglas glazing. However, artists such as Ms. Goodine were very aware of the problems associated with framing oversized photographs in this way: the handling required to secure the photograph within the frame would impart small, dent-like creases around the perimeter, and oily fingerprints were unwittingly deposited to the detriment of the surface sheen. Once framed, the heavy photographs could yawn forward, touching the glazing in spite of the frame spacers, often encouraged by powerful static forces. Photographs larger than 30” x 40” would also naturally ripple and curl at the edges, and multiple hinges would be placed around all four edges in an imperfect attempt to keep them in plane.
Bella Hawk is a work from Ms. Goodine’s 2005 Gibson Lemon Series. All of these photographs are face-mounted, and she has face-mounted three more photographic series since. When asked why, she articulated four reasons: convenience, flattening, hiding surface flaws and damage, and desired aesthetic qualities. Once face-mounted, over-sized photographs were suddenly very easy to handle, and the ruinous creases and fingerprints were no longer a danger. The artwork was rendered unequivocally flat – permanently. Small scratches or cracks in the surface of the photograph were rendered invisible by the filling-in power of the adhesive. And in the case of Bella Hawk, Ms. Goodine was working with the face-mounted quality of imparting a certain luxuriance to the photographic surface; she said it “accentuated the light in the image, and gave an enhanced glow” that suited her subject matter.
Ms. Goodine is now moving away from large scale photography, and with this decision she expects to abandon face-mounting, as well. She believes that it is not really necessary to protect smaller photographs with adhesive-adhered glazing, as handling and caring for them is exponentially easier than with the larger works. She feels that the artist’s choice of photographic papers and printing processes can provide a wide variety of image aesthetics that can be utilized in the service of artistic vision; she personally prefers the image rendering characteristics of the Polyflex paper that she likens visually to the older Cibachrome (then Ilfochrome) papers. She also said that face-mounting is not a practical choice for her students at this stage of their artistic careers because of the expense involved, so the subject is not discussed at length in her classroom. But Ms. Goodine would like to strongly caution anyone interested in face-mounting their work to be knowledgeable about the components of the face-mounting package and insist on using the highest grades of plastic sheeting and rigid back supports available. As it is a permanent mounting system, long term stability is a paramount concern, and artists should continually investigate the products that can ultimately preserve – or possibly destroy – their legacy.