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Frame with glass, non-glare glass, or no glass?

Steve Vancosin , Mar 10, 1999; 09:31 p.m.

Which is it folks, what do you do? We don't generally protect paintings with glass, why then are photographs almost always framed with glazing? Nothing annoys me more than to have to deal with reflections produced by glass...you spend all this time making the best print possible and then turn it into a mirror with the glazing!


Dan Smith , Mar 11, 1999; 01:22 a.m.

The reasons to frame photos with glass are many. The first is to keep those who suffer from blind envy from examining your images using the braille system. Then having the images behind glass & framed using conservation methods protects them from airborne pollutants. Everything from methane to sulfur dioxide to breath & spit from those who look from an inch away & explain your image to everyone within earshot. Another reason is that the glass is only the final component in conservation framing. Using top quality products such as Bainbridge Artcare mats which actively trap atmospheric pollutants is wasted in an environment that is open, they need the enclosed space to work. Using the clear glass or UV glass is more a personal decision, mainly due to the extra cost. We live with the green cast of normal framing glass & the lack of UV protection mainly due to the higher cost of these specialty glass products. One reason many oils are not behind glass is the added weight. Most oils aren't mounted and matted to show them to best advantage, it is part of the medium. Most photographs benefit from the matting which is done to complement the framing and show the image to best advantage. Try a few images on a wall without the glass & see how long they last before fingerprints, scratches & food get on them & you may look more positively at the glass as something needed to show the images.

Y. Dobon , Mar 11, 1999; 04:51 a.m.

Oil paintings, in addition to the weight, often have strong brushwork and texture of the substrate that really require no additional glass barrier for full appreciation. As Dan mentions, many of the pieces that hang in museums are really too large to be placed behind glass anyway.

Note that many oil paintings have a varnish coat which provides a fair amount of physical protection. Also, most drawings, watercolors, pastels, etc. in museums are under glass, most of physical protection from clumsy viewers despite the fact that they might be optimally viewed without that extra barrier.

Thirdly, drawings, watercolors, pastels, etc. tend to suffer from the deleterious effects of humidity when left out in the open. Even a non-hermetic glass frame protects these items to a large extent from the drastic changes of humidity in an exhibition space.

There is no rule that says you must frame a photograph with glass. A creatively designed frame for a 20x30" Ilfochrome Deluxe with anti-reflective glass will probably cost more than the print itself. Do as you wish.

PhotoDr -- , Mar 11, 1999; 12:27 p.m.

1. If you can afford the anti-reflective glass, use it. Do not confuse non-glare glass with the anti-reflective coated glass. Non-glare glass cuts down on the amount of light reaching the print; the anti-reflective glass does not cut down the light. Since a photograph is a reflective media and requires light to look good, the non-glare glass will lower the apparent contrast of the print as less light is reaching it.

2. Most anti-reflective glass also has an extra UV coating that totally absorbs all UV. However, the energy absorption curve of plain window glass that is 3mm thick provides 0% transmission of UV at 300 nanometers and slightly over 80 percent at 360 nanometers. Visible light starts at 380 nanometers so you will have to judge the benefits of paying extra for special UV glass that is not anti-reflective coated.

3. Make sure the print is overmatted or use a frame like the Nielson #55 that has a space between the glass and the print so that the print does not come in contact with the glass.

4. As other responses have noted, one of the reasons for putting a print behind glass is for protection. Much of the dirt that accumulates on glass is through airborne pollutants. You can easily clean this type of film off of glass - if the print is not behind glass, how would you clean the print?

Jim Chow , Mar 11, 1999; 09:22 p.m.

I visited a pro landscape photographer's personal art gallery (in his home) in Japan and noticed that only a few of his images were behind glass. For most prints, he had Fuji RP prints made from them and bonded to a matboard. There was no frame/mat...just the board with attached print fully covering the surface of the board was hung for each print. On others, he used the generic white mat/chrome frame (sold by Fuji film) that everyone else uses.

Rose-Marie B , Mar 12, 1999; 08:52 a.m.

Since light and reflections have been discussed, may I throw another aspect into the mix...how does the actual light source in the room affect the glare? What kind of lighting do galleries use, and at what angle do they project the light? Is this taken into consideration for images under glass?

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