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.


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.


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.


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.


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.