Signing artwork? ...and where?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by brambor, Jun 16, 2006.

  1. I just looked at an exhibition in which the artist signed his name directly onto the content. Other photogs sign on the back of the phtograph while some on the matt...and some not at all.
  2. EricM

    EricM Planet Eric

  3. Their work, their choice!
  4. How do you know some signed on the back?


    And who cares?

    Let us know when your work has that final obstacle.
  5. EricM

    EricM Planet Eric

    in pencil, don't know if it's right or not, i sign on an avery label and put it on the back of inkjet prints...when i remember. sent my print swap prints out un-signed...bummer.
  6. Pico, clairvoyance helps. Talking with friends who exhibit helps too.

    P.S. I'm letting you know I'm at the last step.
  7. In pencil on the back and framed stuff I sign the matt.
  8. I deal with this nuisance all the time. Sign the back and it can\'t be seen. Sign the border and it can get tossed. Sign the work. Find the right fine tip marker that won\'t smear on resin coat.
  9. Rene,

    The correct procedure for signing art works on paper including photographs is to sign the
    face of print at the lower right corner. This should be done with in pencil or for gloss
    surfaces with true archival ink and a nib. It is also good practice to mark the back of the

    In collector�s circles following the established convention adds a level of authenticity to
    the print.

    Some photographers have a problem this, as the image area is seen as sacrosanct. Ansel
    Adams was notorious for this attitude insisting that the matt be signed. If only the matt is
    signed the identity of the image-maker can be lost. As the signature I the most valuable
    part of a work of art the value of the print can be adversely affected. It is also helpful to
    researchers in identify the image-maker. After you are long dead and buried you might
    find you photographs identified as "anonymous" instead of "Rene Braun".

    The reality is, that it is really up to artist and their personal preferences and these days the
    old convention for print signing is often not used especially by photographers.

  10. If I relied on a signature to identify my photos I'd end up being identified as "Scribble Scribble." :)

    When I give a print to someone I put a sticker on the back that has a copyright notice followed by my email address and phone number.
  11. There was a time in the early 1970's and before to mount the photos, permenently, directly to the matte board, either with dry mount tissue or with adhesive. The signature then was placed under the lower right corner on the mount usually in pencil.

    In the mid 1970s a trend began to do "free mounting." This is where the print does not become a permanent part of the mount board and adhesives and dry mount tissue are not used. Instead, archival corners, archival tape to make a top hinge, and such were used. The print then could be removed and remounted. Light Impressions offers many such supplies for this type of mounting.

    In that case, the signature was often placed on a lower right corner of the print itself, in the border, with permanent ink (Sharpie, etc.). There was also a trend to print with large borders. Also, in this situation, the photo was often signed on the back with some data. I saw some Olivia Parker photos many years back, so signed.

    This does not require psychic powers to figure out. (^O^)

    I'm not sure what's being done for gallery and museum work nowdays.
  12. Thank You Craig,

    I'm going to have a show this Labor Day and lately I have been furnishing requests for prints. Up to now I have been signing the back as I haven't really been selling framed prints yet but it got me thinking when I print and frame for the show. Also, I sold one print that I later saw framed and I must say it felt 'overframed and overmatted' so it got me thinking again. My thought process went:

    If I sign the matt of the framed picture then perhaps the buyer won't reframe and rematt the picture as a different matt will lack the signature.

    It feels kind of silly at this point as I'm not used to thinking this way but I just want to throw it out there and gather my thoughts before I frame the stuff for the show.
  13. Rene -
    Your thought process has some validity. Signing the mat would deter others from re-matting. FWIW, one of the few 'art photos' (a Christopher Burkett) I have hanging is so signed.
    I tend to sign the print directly with either a black sharpie or a silver art pen (forget the brand). Then again, I'm not that serious about this stuff (no gallery showings in my future).
  14. i think photographs should be signed with pencil on the back. i just got a rubber stamp
    and i am thinking about using it on fiber prints along with some info, like negative number
    and printing date, but i am not sure yet. it sounds pretentious.i don't know.
  15. Just a word of caution about signing over-matts and or backing boards.

    One of the jobs of archival matt board is to absorb pollutants and thereby protect the
    print. These should be changed every 10 to 20 years depending of the storage of hanging

    Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the signed matt board will be maintained if the
    picture is reframed.

    Not signing the print directly just causes problems for others down the track.

    Personally I print with a generous white boarder and sign and date that portion of the
    print, particularly if the bottom of the image is dark in tone.

  16. David its not pretentious at all!

    It�s a good idea to include additional information.

    Just be sure to use archival inks for your rubber stamp.

  17. EricM

    EricM Planet Eric

    great info, Craig
  18. I bought a couple of Jerry Uelsmann prints back about 1968 that were signed on the mounting board just below the print itself. It was pretty common to do it that way back then, and that was before all the concern about using archival materials. The general thoughtin those days was that the Kodak or Seal dry mount tissue seperated the print from the board and would protect it.

    In the 1970's resin coated paper was introduced and we were told by the manufacturers that it wasn't to be considered archival. Here we are nearly 30 years later and I have a large number of RC prints and many hundreds of RC contact sheets from that era that show no sign of staining or deterioration of the image. Were the paper manufacturers telling us that because they really had no way to know just how well RC paper would hold up over the years? Just covering their butts?

    I print with wide borders and sign just below the image.
  19. Hi Al,

    The questionable archival properties of RC papers is a complex issue which is not fully
    understood. The manufacturers got a huge shock when RC papers were released and
    prints started coming back with strange problems. Theoretically an RC print should have
    been more archival than FB because chemicals could not be trapped in the paper base.

    Basically archival problems in RC stock stem from the base-white pigment, titanium-white
    (TiO2) as opposed to Baryta used in FB. TiO2 has greater covering power and is considered
    chemically inert. But they forgot one important factor ...TiO2 is somewhat light sensitive.
    There are even a couple of obscure photographic processes based on this property.

    What happens is RC papers exposed to light create ozone, which is chemically very
    reactive. A standard glazed framing package for example will trap the ozone near the print
    where it can build up and attack the image silver and also the RC polymers of the paper
    base, causing it to crack. The problem was eventually solved by including antioxidants into
    the paper's structure. Even so it is not recommended that RC papers be framed and
    exhibited. Some RC prints can self destruct quite quickly while others seem to last well.
    There are other problems with RC papers too, such as base white discolouring and

    Art conservators hate drymounting of photographs and with good reason. It is not a
    reversible process. If a drymounted print needs serious conservation work, removing it
    from backing is a complete pain and a very costly operation.

    I used to drymount with the Kodak Tissue but no longer.

  20. Why does the pen have to be archival?
  21. Craig, thanks for the info on RC prints. I always suspected that it might have just been the early RC papers, which had developer incorporated into the emulsion for use in "rapid access processors" (remember those?) where the print would be first dampened by an activator solution and then a stabilizer. This was first used with fiber based papers, and you'd get a slightly damp print within minutes which could be used right away for publication and later properly fixed and washed if desired.

    I've never framed any black and white RC prints behind glass. I would imagine that the outgassing would have some effect on a stack of 100 contact sheets stored for 25 years in a box, but they still look fine.
  22. Rene, the ink shouldn't contain any chemicals that might react with the image and the pigment and/or dye should be fade resistant.
  23. Cheers Craig, very informative.
  24. Rene,

    In addition to Al's points, some inks are acidic. This can affect a photographic print
    causing local colour changes.

    Also the inks of so-called permanent marker pens for instance are not lightfast and will
    fade overtime.

    As Todd peach pointed out, some high grade felt tip pens with archival grade inks are now
    available, and their use is acceptable. Any decent art supply or museum supply house
    should be able to show you which ones.

  25. Signing mats, IMO is tacky. The back of the print is best, though the front is OK - depending
    if you want your signature visible under a larger window mat and that you have a border area
    available. Use pencil for matte papers.

    A Sakura Pigma Micron archival ink pen works well for glossy/RC papers. A "005" pen is very
    fine and good for the front. A "02" is a little bolder and works fine for the back. The Pigma
    pens are about $3.00 in art supply stores.
  26. And don't use Sharpie pens - their inks are solvent-based. The Sakura Pigma Micron pens are pigment-based. Here's a link to the Sakura pens.
  27. Brad, thanks for the information on Sakura pens. I'll see if my local art supply carries them.
  28. I use an embosser on the bottom border of the print.
  29. Craig:

    "Basically archival problems in RC stock stem from the base-white pigment, titanium-white (TiO2) as opposed to Baryta used in FB. TiO2 has greater covering power and is considered chemically inert. But they forgot one important factor ...TiO2 is somewhat light sensitive. There are even a couple of obscure photographic processes based on this property."

    Would you mind linking some info about this? 'Obscure photographic processes' I mean. Thanks!
  30. Flavio,

    Good question... now you are stretching my recollection. As I recall they weren't so much
    practical but more technical and experimental. Somewhere in my bookcase there is a

    Iメll see if I can dig it out for you and Iメll get back to you.

  31. Jaromir Kosar, "Light sensitive systems: Chemistry and Application of Nonsilver Halide
    Photographic Processes", john Wiley & Sons, New York, (1965)

    Walls and Attridge, Basic Photo Science: how photography works, focal press (1977)
  32. Thanks Craig!

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