View Full Version : Protecting valuable photographs from the sun

Dan Dozer
12-Feb-2015, 15:12
Not even sure where to put this question, so here it is. I'm fortunate to be friends with a couple who has accumulated a very impressive collection of photographs, and likes to display them on the walls in their home. Many of the images are from the 40's and 50's by very well known photographers like Yousuf Karsh. All of the photos are black and white and have glass covering them. Their dilemma is that they want to display their photographs in a room with large glass walls/doors that face to the east. Keeping their blinds open to get natural light into the house also exposes the photographs to sunlight for most of the day.

Because most of their photographs are pretty valuable and difficult to replace, they are concerned about what long term affect/damge the sunlight coming into the room may have on the photos.

Do any of you have any good advice for them (other than keep the blinds closed)?

Will Frostmill
12-Feb-2015, 17:45
Aside from "don't do it", they could consider a light exposure budget for each of the works. Pick a subset of the photographs, and rotate them out of dark storage on to the wall and back again on a fixed routine. If you want to have even exposure, make sure it is based on an odd-numbered interval. I.e. change three times a year, not four, so that the same group of photos aren't being blasted by the summer sun annually. Direct vs. reflected light will make a difference.

Other sensible precautions include making sure the glass in the frames is UV resistant, and if the windows are new enough, if they are UV blocking. I saw enormous transparent sheets of UV blocking film mounted on roller blind hardware at Fonthill/the Mercer Museum (http://www.mercermuseum.org/), used to protect the furniture from sun damage. Checking for other UV sources in the environment might be prudent (i.e. fluorescent tubes, unlikely, I know.) Checking the condition and materials used in the mounting and framing of the photos would be prudent anyway.

I would suggest reading up on the silvering-out problems RC coated papers have, in case they have any photos on that material. Ctien had a very comprehensive chapter on the problem in his Post Exposure book, which is now available as a free pdf here. (http://ctein.com/booksmpl.htm)

I'm sure others will have other suggestions.

Jon Shiu
12-Feb-2015, 17:50
If direct sunlight falls on the framed photos, they may fog up due to moisture coming out of the paper and condensing on the glass. Another good reason not to expose to direct sunlight.


Doremus Scudder
15-Feb-2015, 05:16
The Wilhelm Imaging Research Center has a free downloadable book in pdf-format about the permanence and care of photographs. Of particular interest is chapter 17 on illumination and display. Each chapter can be downloaded separately. It's worth the time to read this and other sources as well as consult a conservator if one has a valuable collection of historic photographs.