Big Pictures - Backstage

There is even more to a big picture than what meets the eye. For starters, who prints the photograph and how, how is it mounted, and then how is it safely transported, stored, and preserved?

When a photographer or artist decides on a large format for his/her photograph, the negative or digital file is often sent to be printed by a professional printing studio with appropriately large printers. The studio will print and often fully mount the photograph onto a rigid support to minimize physical distortion experienced by the print while in transit and/or on display.

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Then there is the question of how one safely transports such a large object. Custom crates are made, placed on a truck (or airplane) with controlled air conditioning and relative humidity, as well as lifted air suspension for a smoother ride, and then chaperoned by professional art movers and museum couriers all the way to the work's final destination.

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Once at the museum, crates require room for storage, and the art work must be moved by multiple staff members on an A-frame cart.

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As more and more artists print big, new demands are set on museum storage space. Photographs may be stored upright, as imaged below, or in over-sized, horizontal map cases.

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Finally, art conservators face new challenges. For example, they are charged with the task of staying well educated about ever-changing mounting adhesives, substrate materials, and printing technologies. When working with large objects, conservators need a large working space, additional lighting equipment, and a different setup for photo documentation. And often times, conservators have to get creative-altering traditional conservation approaches to make them appropriate for big pictures.

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