In 1971 my mother embroidered a magnificent sampler that she framed and gave as a gift to her beloved sister, my Aunt Nick. Thirty seven years later, just before she passed away, my Aunt Nick gave this treasured family heirloom to me. As the fabric had acquired some stains (due to non-archival framing- another topic for another blog post) I decided to have it cleaned and re-framed. I brought it to Museum Textile Services where they cleaned and restored it to its original beauty and then to Walden Framer, where I knew it would be handled with love and framed with archival materials. It’s now one of my most treasured belongings and hangs in my home where I cherish it every day.
You may be wondering why I’m writing about embroidery on my photography site. The answer is that my embroidery got me thinking about professional portraits, specifically those that are left as digital files or printed on low-quality consumer-grade paper. Would I want a digital file of this embroidery? I wouldn’t even consider it. Not only do I love having it on my wall to see every day, I appreciate it for its physical being- its colors and textures and for the memories of my mother and aunt it conjures up in my heart. I feel the same about the beautiful portraits I have of my children and niece and nephew that are printed on silver gelatin paper, archivally framed and displayed on my walls. Good quality photography has a rich texture such as that of a mat black-and-white silver gelatin print or a mounted canvas. Or a deep depth of tones on a more glossy print. The physical being of the portrait is connected in an important way to the subject. The overall presentation, whether matted and framed or a canvas stretched gallery wrapped further enhance the feeling and meaning of the photograph. The notion of preserving my wonderful embroidery as a digital file seems ludicrous, but truly no more so than viewing my family portraits that way.