The "Necropsy" of an Art Project


Yes it is a strange way to put it, but I wanted to find out the details of the making of such a project and one option is to dissect it, therefore the necropsy! Granted, I could have called it the anatomy of an art project, I guess it’s my morbid sense of humor!

It is fairly obvious and easy to understand some of the motivations leading to Osborn's series on the cowboys of central Montana; the romance, the almost mythical stature of the cowboys, as well as the nostalgia of another, “vanishing race.”

So what about the more technical aspects of such an endeavor, like the choice of paper, the printing process, the matting and the framing? Let’s find out.

Before you even take a picture you’ve got to have a camera and Robert Osborn uses an “aging” Nikon D4, with a 24-120 Nikkor lens, because he feels that, bear with me here, “…its 16.2 megapixels image sensor produces images that sharpen incredibly well…sharper than newer cameras.” I could not have said it better! In Robert’s words again, “The Nikon D4 is a great cowboy camera.”

The choice of black and white is almost universal in photographic portraiture, conveying a dramatic feel to the images even though very few of us see in black and white, but again, many think that way! It is kind of a paradox, painters do portraits in color and photographers in black and white, when photography was suppose to, “…liberate painting from the subject” to paraphrase Picasso and photography be the ultimate imitation of nature!

The choice of paper is the result of many years of testing and comparing qualities and nuances. Robert has settled for Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Baryta, a 315 gsm fiber inkjet paper thatin his own words “…produces gorgeous, luminous prints with a wonderfully rich contrast gamut and a semi-gloss finish that does not mark easily.” An issue with matte paper is that it scuffs easily and the marks can’t be removed. Another requirement for his choice was to find a paper containing no brighteners which give a slight pinkish cast that is OK in color prints but, “awful” in black and whites.

When it comes to matting and framing Robert has the same high standards. Matting is done with an 8 ply Crescent Cotton Rag Matboard, acid free with museum archival properties in a warm white color. The same attention to details is given to the frames. Robert chose a Neilson matte-black aluminum frame for its clean appearance, structural integrity and archival properties too. Unlike wood, aluminum is inert and will not affect paper prints and mat boards.

The frames are then fitted with Optium Museum Acrylic glazing, selected for its incredible clarity, a nearly invisible anti-reflective coating and 99% UV protection.

Of course being cowboys, size matters! Most of the studio portraits are printed to 27 inches, but a few, “demand” to be printed to 36 inches! But again, didn’t they put John Wayne on a stamp?

Well, at the conclusion of this fun “necropsy” the result is that this Art Project is still alive and kicking!

So come on down to the gallery to check it out and enjoy the art.