Information for artists and collectors: Archival quality of your works

Most photographic artists are interested in their work being collectable and withstanding the test of time. However, as most of you are probably aware, there are different levels of archival quality among printing materials, chemistry and inks. Saving $50 on materials now may mean a loss of 60 years viewing down the track!

How does this happen?

How your work is handled and processed by photo labs can contribute to the degradation of an image, as well as other factors such as the quality and freshness of materials used.

It is a manufacturer’s responsibility to guarantee their products and to ensure care when handling and processing.

What are the consequences?
Your work will not be rated by museums as archival, which could be a costly loss to your reputation.

Do you guarantee your work and for how long?
It is up to individual artists to maintain high standards in photographic fine art reproduction. This can be achieved by requesting the highest quality materials available, such as a particular brand of paper and types of ink. This will ensure the reputation of fine art photography as a valuable art form and a good investment, increase overall sales of photography and do justice to your work.

To show our commitment to artists, the Colour Factory is at present collecting certificates from all manufacturers about their products and we will be supplying a certification of our materials, inks, chemicals, handling procedures and expected lifespan, with all prints in the very near future. Your art collector will be able to look at your artwork knowing a gallery or museum could buy it and comply with worldwide archival standards.

This article was inspired by a recent experience of Phill Virgo’s,  Colour Factory director. So the story goes…

“A friend who had recently purchased three mural canvas digital prints asked me to look at them when one of them developed several stains, which had also blistered the liquid laminate surface. After a long appraisal, my opinion was that either the substrate was sub standard, or the mix of media was not suitable. It is also a possibility that handling issues in the production or contamination had caused this unwanted chemical reaction. The piece is no longer suitable for display or collection.

Dedicated art collectors, and influential in the Australian art scene (my friend’s father is a past chair of the Melbourne Arts Festival) unfortunately, this experience has lowered their opinion of photographic fine art and printing. Keep in mind that most people, even collectors, don’t overly discern between substrates. It is the work of art that is important. However, if it doesn’t stand the test of time, it has little aesthetic or financial value.”

This story illustrates the importance of protecting photo-based arts as a quality art form, continuing to produce works on fine art materials as it has been done for over a century.

Some retail companies pump out hundreds of canvas prints that will fade in a reasonably short time. As a result, the photographic print, be it ink or photographic, is in danger of being perceived as a short term, commercial decoration and nothing more.

You cannot command high prices for your art if the production methods are substandard.

For anyone wanting to know more on this subject you can contact Phill at the Colour Factory on +61 (03) 9419 8756.

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