Before Eric picked out the work for the Hartnell exhibition, he had to know about how many prints he could get on the wall. To figure that out, he asked me how big the matted prints would be. I told him that I usually print these images on 17×22 paper with 1 inch margins. With 1/2 inch relief all around, 3 inches of mat on the top and sides, and 3 1/2 inches on the bottom, the matted work would be 24 1/2 by 29. Using those dimensions, Eric figured that 34 prints would be about right.
After Eric picked the prints from the show, I read a column by David Vestal in Photo Techniques in which David talked about a show that he was preparing. He had decided to present the work unmatted under glass. I was intrigued. I had always matted exhibition work before, and had some misgivings about the cost, and didn’t like getting the work back and having to find some place to store it — it takes up six or seven times as much space matted as it does loose. I asked Eric if it would be all right to present the work unmatted if I printed the images on Arches Infinity 22×30 paper, with an image size similar to what I originally proposed. He thought that was fine, and said that he had enough 22×30 glass already in stock.
Some say that in war no plan survives contact with the enemy. My printing plan began to unravel almost immediately. In between flipping levers while I was converting the 9800 from Photo Black to Matte Black, I checked out my paper supply. I found one 25-sheet box of Infinity. “Oh well,” I thought, “I’ll just order some more and get started with what I have in the meantime.” I poked around on the web for 15 minutes and couldn’t find Arches Infinity in that size.
A little history. In the late nineties, when I started using 22×30 paper, it was a standard watercolor size. It probably still is. I first started out printing on regular watercolor paper. Later, when paper with coatings optimized for inkjet printing became available, 22×30 seem to be “grandfathered in”, at least by the paper companies that already had a watercolor paper business. Over time, the photographic inkjet market grew and, I imagine, the watercolor market remained relatively static, until we reached the point where the photography market was much larger than the watercolor market. At first, in the US inkjet sheet paper was mostly available in the standard graphic arts sizes of 8.5×11 (A size), 11×17 (B size), 17×22 (C size), 22×34 (D size), with 13×19 added. Then came the photographic sizes: 8×10, 11×14, 16×20, 20×24, and so on. Now, at least in the case of 22×30, we’re seeing the inkjet paper suppliers winnow out some of their watercolor sizes.
I needed a plan B. I scrounged around and found 50 sheets of 24×36 Hahnemuele Photo Rag that I’d bought for a project that never happened. I called up Eric and asked if I could print the show on that. He said that he thought it would fit (we might have to leave one or two images out), and that he thought he could get the glass we’d need. I breathed a sigh of relief, and started printing, leaving a 4 inch margin on the top and sides, and 4 1/2 on the bottom of the wide images. I tried printing the squarish pictures with four inch side margins, but the image looked to small, so I went with three inch side margins. I set the top margin to three inches less than the bottom margin to lift the squarish images by that much on the portrait-mode background.