Image Borders

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by michaellinder, Mar 7, 2018.

  1. I had a rather quirky idea earlier today regarding the general purpose for surrounding an image with borders. This is different than relying on elements already present in the image. It has to do with impermanence, transitoriness, the ephemeral, etc. Although we may realize that images we create will not last forever, perhaps we place borders around them to retain everything within the frame.
  2. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Don't think I've ever put a border on a digital image, and with a few exceptions, when I see them, don't feel that they add anything of value, some even detract. Matting and framing quality photo prints for display or competition is customary, but even there, I think understated good taste is the key - the image not the trappings on display. Just my opinion!
    Bob Peebles likes this.
  3. I've always thought of frames around art as extensions of what art already is. With rare exceptions, paintings are painted on a canvas that has edges. Photos are physically limited to the edges of the negative or bounded already by the implied framing of the lens. A frame we add highlights that. It is separating art from the world, presenting it.

    Digital framing can be very important on the Internet in setting the image apart from the background color of the page or extraneous material on the page. The PN forums are limited by the white background, which has a whole lot of influence on the contrast of the photos we post, mostly negative influence I'd say. I don't bother a whole lot, but when I was creating my PN portfolio I started putting some solid black borders around the photos to cut down on the glare of the white background that often washed out some contrast.

    In homes, I like when frames connect to the decor while still flattering the art. A frame can be an important finishing touch. Tastefully chosen, a frame can become an added design element and even affect the feel of a painting or photo.

    I see frames not so much about permanence, though I like your ideas on that, Michael. I see them more as a means of placing art in the world while also separating it from that world, or maybe it would be better to say, highlighting it within that world.
  4. Interestingly, I'm starting to think about a new show in my home gallery and may do some printing that gets hung between two pieces of glass or even somehow rests on a hanging mechanism without frames. There are some series of photos I have that I think will present well with a less finished look and more of rough, constructed presentation.
    michaellinder and Sandy Vongries like this.
  5. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Can't recall when / where - saw something similar on handmade paper with untrimmed edges. Etchings or woodcut, can't recall which, but powerful. There are special clips and hangers, or homemade with relative ease. An excellent idea IMO.
  6. I agree with you, Fred, and I think there is also a subtle message being transmitted with a framed photo. Susan Sontag claimed that "to photograph is to confer importance". This can be extended to framing - if a photographer has gone through the effort and expense to frame a photo, then he or she probably thinks the photo is important for some reason. As a viewer, it gives me a clue that the photo was important to someone else. I'm reminded of a song by Tom Waits, called Picture in a Frame, in which framing someone's picture indicates the importance of that someone. "I love you baby, and I always will, ever since I put your picture in a frame."
    michaellinder likes this.
  7. Interesting point, Fred. Do you think that it's similar to what Mark stated above?
  8. Yes. Mark and I have covered quite a bit of territory, all of which rings true for me. I'm sure there's more as well.

    I wanted to mention, in addition, that it might be an even stronger statement NOT to frame stuff in an actual gallery show, which is what I'm considering. To me, in some sense, that may well be more of a statement and have more of an effect on viewers than framing the prints in unobtrusive, barely noticeable frames. Mainly because it's not just a bunch of unframed photos lying around. It's unframed photos intentionally and deliberately on display that way.

    I'm of the mind that presentation shouldn't undermine art but can be a very strong and noticeable support of art and even a striking element unto itself. If the photos are strong enough, they won't be in competition with a strong presentation, they'll work holistically with it.

    San Francisco's Legion of Honor has an extensive Rodin sculpture collection that occupies several rooms. The sculptures go from large and imposing to small and more refined. There was just an exhibit at that museum of paintings by Klimt. Instead of displaying them in the usual special exhibition halls, they were hung among the Rodin statues. Now, this definitely put a spin on the art of each artist and the show became a comparison show. It was an extremely strong presentation. And both artists' work stood up to it well.

    I guess I believe art can, but doesn't have to, stand alone. It's contexts and where it lives and what it's seen with and how it's displayed are vital to how it's perceived. Any photo or painting or sculpture is not one thing and does not live in a vacuum. Presentation, from the outrageous to the unobtrusive, can play an important role and give it different meanings or at least make it feel differently.
  9. Fred, I now fully understand your earlier point, and I now will rethink what I stated in the OP. In my own case, of the photos I have decorating walls in my house, my two favorites are mounted without a frame per se. What goes directly on the wall is an apparatus that, to the uninitiated, makes the images look like they're floating in the ether.
  10. SCL


    In many cases I prefer frames. To me it is like adding an exclamation point at the end of a statement.
  11. For me, frame sometimes enables me to focus more on the totality of the image by separating it from the surrounding. Without a frame, the image may look more convex, especially where there is a darker central subject against a lighter background. This only works if the frame in itself is not distracting. Whether a frame is going to add to the aesthetics of the image also depends on the shade of the surrounding wall. An image that has a light background might look just fine without frame against a dark wall with proper lighting. The same image may benefit from a frame while displayed against a light wall. In general, the contrast between the image background and surrounding wall can emulate natural framing. However, this should not be taken as a general rule, since I have seen plenty of images that defy the above observations and work well without any framing at all.
  12. I think Supriyo hit on something important. When displaying a piece of art, the viewer's experience of the art can be (is!) heavily impacted by its presentation, by the venue and circumstances of its display. I would offer that the artist's choices as to the character of the display has nearly a much impact on the experience of the viewer as does the piece itself. On the other side of that coin, displaying a piece of visual art, including photographs, in an environment distinctly different from that intended by the artist can change the impact of the art from what was intended. Michael's original question suggests a more philosophical/impressionist purpose of framing. I offer that what a well-executed matte and frame accomplish is to isolate an image from uncontrolled surroundings and assist the viewer in seeing the image as its own thing, and less as component piece in a larger venue. To the degree that the venue for display is an intentional artistic artifact, then mattes and frames can lose their role. I like to matte and frame my own images for display so as to provide a consistent and predictable contrast/synergy between the photographs and their immediate adjacencies.
    stevegeorge likes this.
  13. I'm sure it's a noticeable that large (size) paintings or photo installations are avoid framing (if not diminish the framing significance at all.) This could be seen as the functional role of the framing (for small pieces.) Of course, this is not all as in black and white, as all that was mentioned above.

    This could be seen as attempt to recreate "Gesamtkunstwerk" approach of Klimt's the Vienna Secession association.
  14. When I was a kid, I would crayon in a black border around the edges of people and other objects colored inside with other tones. I don't recall if that was something I just did, or at that age was told to do it by the teacher. Frankly, I never got passed the ability of drawing stick figures. SO maybe it was good practice. :)

    I think photos are naturally framed. First, psychologically because their edges just stop unlike how our brain views the actual world. The frame tells the viewer where the edge is. It's capped. Second, photos kind of have borders whether it's the frame holding it, the edge of the computer screen or cell phone, etc. So it's there anyway. Extra framing just pretty them up.

    Finally, when my club has photo contests where the pictures are digitally projected, the judges want a tiny black edge. They eliminate the continuation of the whites in the photo blending into the screen. It better defines the photos borders and what's in the picture.
  15. Interestingly enough, frames are a visual and presentational element, often highlighting or setting apart the photo or painting. A lot of good photos, though, will take us beyond the edges of the frame (whether it’s the implied frame at the edges of the paper or screen or an explicit frame with mitred corners and a mat). So, a frame can offset and bring emphasis and attention to a picture, but won’t necessarily contain or constrain a good one. Photos can physically and visually point outside the frame, through composition, perspective, and content or lack thereof, and they can also do this psychically. At the same time, a frame can remind us of the plasticity and constructed nature of art and photography, that this is something made by hand, refined with a finishing touch!
    michaellinder and DavidTriplett like this.
  16. Well, it's surely the case that the borders should be tasteful
    even restrained in form so as not to overwhelm the image itself ;)

    Of course, some people think anything can be improved
    DavidTriplett likes this.
  17. That's correct, David. However, the thread has travelled in a different direction; I'm OK with this.
  18. Interesting point, Alan. There's some continental folks who may think that it embodies philosophical content as well. I suspect Kant was the first to suggest that human consciousness orders what we experience by means of categories.
  19. With a bit of a debt to Aristotle! :cool:


    Photographer Garry Winogrand said something nice:

    “When you put four edges around some facts, you change those facts.”
    michaellinder likes this.
  20. Thats interesting, because this is what machine learning algorithms try to emulate, putting human sensual experience into classes or categories, by adding new classes as it evolves. I guess, this is where science and abstract philosophy overlap, one benefitting from the other.
    michaellinder likes this.

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