very old photo in very old convex glass and oval frame

Emily

Grumbler
Joined
Dec 30, 2003
Posts
30
From
Beresford, SD
My customer just brought this photo in for a "cleanup". The picture had been disassembled. She doesn't want new glass, etc. The photo is torn and damaged, she doesn't care. Mostly she just wanted the glass cleaned and everything put back together.

Here is my question: Whatever the backer was on the photo, it is torn and chipped away. Perhaps because of this, the photo no longer sits nicely in the glass. Is there something I can "stuff" behind the photo to force it to contour properly? If this were one of my quilts, I'd use batting. What is my appropriate response to this?

I plan on putting new barrier paper and acid-free foam core to use when I frame it up.

Suggestions? Critiques?

Thanks,
Emily
 

Framerguy

PFG, Picture Framing God
Joined
Apr 12, 2001
Posts
7,261
From
Destin, Florida
What exactly do you mean by "it doesn't sit nicely in the frame"?

YOu don't want the photo sitting against the glass at all. Some of these old oval photos were partially curved to lay about halfway between the back of the oval frame and the convex glass. Most started out flat and have warped or taken on a curve over the years from moisture cycles and, in a few cases, improper fitting in the frame. They were fitted tightly in the rabbet and when they swelled with environmental changes they had to go somewhere so they usually curved inward.

I have not tried to force one of these old photos to conform to some shape that the customer had in mind that it should be but I would not advise stuffing anything in the back of the photo to make it curve evenly. Chances are you customer will not like the results and you may add additional damage to an already brittle old photo.

Using acid free foamcore (like Artcare) would be the only addition that I would make to the framing along with a new dust cover and hanging hardware.

Framerguy

[ 01-23-2004, 05:54 PM: Message edited by: Framerguy ]
 

Ron Eggers

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Joined
Jul 6, 2001
Posts
16,932
From
Wisconsin
Most started out flat
Does anybody know for sure if this is true?

I've seen so many of these things that I always assumed the were MEANT to be convex, though I can't imagine why they would do that.

When they start to crumble, they are absolute beasts to work with. Your customer may not care now, but she might when it's a little pile of cardboard in the bottom of the frame.

To me, this is one of those "can't do it half-way" projects. I think it needs a trip to a conservator or back into your customer's attic.
 

keiki

CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
Joined
May 29, 2002
Posts
123
From
Left FL for IL...
I've seen quite a few of these old photos and have the same suspicion as Ron, that they were meant to be convex. My personal opinion is that this gave them a sort of 3 dimensional look and it was a fad that took off for the photographers way back when.

As for the original question, why wouldn't batting behind 1 ply rag paper be a solution for keeping the curve just enough to prevent it from collapsing. Short of the photo being too fragile to handle this, the conservator sounds like the way to go.
 

Kit

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Joined
Aug 31, 2000
Posts
2,513
From
Rochester, MN
Tom, Tom, Tom. Why can't we ever agree on anything? Is it the lamé problem again?

I have always thought that those curved photos were meant to be that way. I imagine the photographer draping the still-wet print over a form to dry, sort of like blocking a felt hat.

I don't know that for a fact, though.

Emily, since you're a quilter and know your way around a sewing machine, how about an unbleached muslin pillow stuffed with enough batting to give the photo some support?

I've never done this. If it's a bad idea, I'm sure another Grumbler will let me know.

Kit
 

Rebecca

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Joined
Feb 28, 2002
Posts
3,339
From
Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Hi Emily,

I agree with Ron, Keiki and Kit - curved/domed photographic portraits are supposed to that shape. I'd be a little worried about trying to press it against the glass because

1) it isn't supposed to be touching the glass and

2) if it is as brittle as you suggest (and that is typically the case) pressure from padding etc. might cause further edge chipping or cracks in the body of the piece. The paper board that the photographic paper are mounted on are typically poor quality and often very brittle.

If you can post a picture (something that is technically beyond me, but lots seem to be able to master it) you could probably get more specific advice.

Rebecca
 

Jack Cee

MGF, Master Grumble Framer
Joined
Jun 18, 2002
Posts
666
From
Willows, CA
I have cleaned several of these with convex glass and have found paper stuffed between the backing and the photograph so that the photo would be convex as well; I believe that this was done by the original framer/photographer in order to make the photo fit the glass. I have reframed them also in the flat condition when they have been in contact with the glass with no damage. The photo was never in contact with the glass with the convex style.

If you try and flatten the photo, you may be buying some trouble with the photo and with your client who is accustomed to looking at it in the convex condition. Frequently, you may find a bit of moisture damage where the photo is in contact with the glass; a spacer may be in order made from a thin cut museum board.

Jack Cee
 

ERIC

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Joined
Dec 31, 2001
Posts
1,852
From
New York's Hudson River Valley
Business
Newburgh Mercantile
Yup - those puppies were were convex, and it was a 'scam' to sell you a frame that would fit 'just perfect'.

A good friend of mine had family that traveled the southeast for decades selling the portraits. The first one would get to town and take photo's for days and then deliver them on the last day in town. Every one would say that they wanted a frame and would be told that 'I think the frame guy is in the region, hold tight'. Then the next family member came into town to sell just the perfect frame for their odd shaped portrait.

The process and final product was legit - many are still around! I always thought it was funny how we have been "sold" something we "need" for time in memorial (did I say that right?).

Tom called it right, that the art was about half way to the glass never up against it. I wish I knew more about what they did behind it. My friend is in Europe for the season, I'll ask her when she returns.

The process was a combination of a photosensitive coating being brushed on the already rounded paper (to get the overall image and the details of the face) and then some pastel-ish stuff artistically applied over the photo image.
 

Rebecca

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Joined
Feb 28, 2002
Posts
3,339
From
Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Eric,

I don't think there is an awful lot written about these kind of portraits. I've worked on many (one from the Ukraine - it was strange looking) but never researched them so my interest having been piqued, I'm off to the library today to find 2 referenced I have located. I'll post a summary on a new thread. I would LOVE it if you could pump your friend for any sales and technical info she may have and post it too. I just love her travelling salesman story.

Rebecca
 

Framerguy

PFG, Picture Framing God
Joined
Apr 12, 2001
Posts
7,261
From
Destin, Florida
OK, guys, that's what I get for posting information that I didn't research first. I got the "warped photo" from the local historian in my old gallery town. Since he had a bunch of these old portraits that he had accumulated over about 50 years of compiling stuff about the original families that settled the town, I figured he knew what he was talking about.

(I asked him one time if he had a contract with the CrackerBarrel restaurant chain to supply these oval portraits to all the newly opened restaurants.)

Rebecca explained rather well what I didn't explain about putting pressure on a brittle print. It doesn't have any support on the image side and, if you put any "stuffing" behind it to try to even it out, you may create more damage to the print.

Framerguy

P.S. Would anyone like to know how to keep the shape in framed breast implants?? :cool:

(Emily, you probably weren't around the Grumble when that epic framing came to be.)
 

BUDDY

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Charter Member
Joined
Sep 16, 1998
Posts
11,498
From
Mandeville,La. USA 130 Blue Heron Dr.
I don't have any expertise but I do have some experience and some of what all of you are saying is correct if the local expert I spoke with is correct. First the Photos are supposed to be convexed but not to the extent they touch the Covex glass. Next I was told this was achived by some type of wet mounting method that left the dried photo convexed .And yes if you apply any pressure in the wrong places you wil crack the print. ( I have seen the results of just such an attempt.)I also have in my posession the original oval metal Frame ,convex glass and photo on it's original mount board of my wife Marie's gradmother in her childhood.And Yes the Mount board (although it is what appears to be thin News Board) is also convex to the same shape as the photo,which is how the phot held it shape .This choice of materials is still another reason for the brittleness.The Acid in the news board causes the drying out of anything it comes in contact with over time (if I remeber the FACTS correctly). Our guess is that the mtg. and print were shaped wet on the same mold.
The only reason for all of this is thought to be that it gave the image a sort of three demensional effect when viewed from an angle.I guess it is something akin to those Federal Mirrors you see in antibellum parlors.I hear they were made so the Mothers could keep a watching eye on the suitors from the an other room. While that's another topic they do have the same shape.
But then you didn't need to hear from me you already had an expert(Rebecca) tell you all this already.But I just love a good debate.LOL
BUDDY

[ 01-24-2004, 08:22 PM: Message edited by: BUDDY ]
 
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