Preparations for printing and hanging

Last week I spent time sorting out hanging methods and preparing for the full print run by making some test strips.  The test strips are to finalise the amount of sharpening to apply to the finished prints.


Test strip hung with copper nails

I have also been taking a closer look at how to hang and I went back to the guys in PhotoIreland, Angel and Julia to pick their brains about hanging unframed images.  I think I have previously posted the image below where I used nails and fold back clips.  Having spent a week or so looking at it I came to the conclusion that I disliked the clips, they get in the way of looking at the images so Angel suggested that I nail the images straight to the wall as above.


test print hung with masonry nails and fold back clips


Masonry nail and clip

I decided that I would keep the masonry nails in reserve and see if I could find another, better looking option.  Panel pins would be perfect however they will not go into a solid wall.  Then last week I came across these copper plated nails that are designed to go into hard wood planks.  I bought a bag and took them home to test and although they will not go very deeply into the wall they go in deep enough to hold up my prints.  They are nice and slim and look good too so I am optimistic that this way will work however I will also have a fall back option with me on the 29th when I arrive to start hanging.


Print hung with copper plated nail

I also had, as I think I said in a previous post, ordered some magnets to try out at the same time.  I decided to go with the less expensive option of using a flat magnet which would clamp to a screw head underneath, the more expensive option is to buy two magnets for each attachment point.  One is counter sunk and is made to be mounted on the screw head itself and then then second magnet is placed on the other side of the print.  I decided, on doing the maths that this was too expensive for my budget and also they are not available locally and I would have to order and wait before I could see the end result.  I found a couple of things with these.  The first was that they are very, very powerful.  They come in pairs with a small plastic ring between the two magnets to make it easy to separate them.  By mistake I allowed two magnets to stick together and they were near enough impossible to separate, I had to use a knife with a narrow blade and I could see it was possible that I might slice my own finger off!  Also they just didn’t work without the second counter sunk magnet, the print kept slipping down and exposing the screw head beneath.  This might be due to the size of the screw head but regardless for the cost I decided I wasn’t going to explore this any further.  They would still make an interesting option in the future.


Round magnets for hanging art work

Also I tested out putting up a line on the wall using a piece of string as a level.  I am trying to think of ways to speed up the hanging and if I this worked I could hang a line of prints on the wall at the same height quickly.  I have decided that I will go for all prints hung in a line to emphasise the narrative across the set.


Piece of string hung as a level horizontal line

I go this idea following making a mistake with one of the first prints where I drew a line on the wall which, once the print was hung was clearly visible.


Pencil mark visible behind print

So I hung two test strips, one sharpened by various amounts using the Nik suite of software for a viewing distance of 60 cm (L) and the other for 60 cm to 1.5 meters (R).  IMG_6622

I have decided to go with the second viewing distance and have pre sharpened using Nik pro Raw Presharpener, reducing noise in Dfine 2 and finally sharpening for output at the appropriate image size using Nik output sharpening.  I hung my images off an imaginary central line of 155 cm.  This means that the top of the image is 155 cm plus half the heath of the print (21.5 cm) or 176.5 cm from the floor.

Another issue I wanted to look at was the method for hanging the prints on my own.  My initial idea was to mark up the wall using a spirit level and pencil then hanging the print using something temporary such as blutack.  This would allow me to take my hands away from the print and use them to hammer the nails into the print and wall.  I found that while this method does work its flawed.  First of all the print doesn’t sit well, flat on the wall.  Also after I had the four corners nailed it was tricky to get the blutack off and I left a couple of marks on the print.  SO since then I have begun to think about asking for help.  On Saturday I mentioned to someone in my local coffee shop that I was hanging alone and she instantly volunteered her husband!  I spoke to him and he is available to hang on the 29th.  Now I just need someone for the 30th and 31st.

Finally I am thinking of how I can show the process fo hanging the exhibition and also the opening night.  I intend to use video for some of this and yesterday I made this video of the first print of the exhibition run rolling off my printer and shared it far and wide because I am trying to show the process of making the exhibition.

Also last week I made this time-lapse video of the test hanging in our bedroom and in the hall way outside.  It was a family affair.

Progress towards the exhibition

Last night I actually went about the process of hanging a print here at home.  First I had to test the masonry nails on a solid wall and confirmed that they will work.


I chose to hang the image with the centre at approx 5’1″ as per one of the recommendations in Exhibiting Photography by Shirley Read.  I wasn’t entirely happy with how the image looked but thinking about it afterwards it may be that it was just a single image hung on its own in a narrow hallway.  Just in case I have ordered some magnets, enough to test hang two images side by side.

Today I have been making some test strips on my printer to see how much sharpening is required:

test strip for sharpening.jpeg

Here I have resharpened and reduced noise with the Nik software tools and then sharpened for output set for inkjet, paper type set to matt, viewing distance is set up to 60 cm and printer resolution is set to 1200×600.  I have chosen a to sharpen the same slice of the final image at 3 different output sharpening strengths: 50%, 100% and 150%.  My plan is to print it and hang it on the wall, stand back and look at it before deciding which works better.

Feedback received

I just received this feedback on my work by email from Spencer, one of the members of an informal study group here in Ireland:

Hi Brian,

I am not going to be able to make your show ‘out west’… but i had a look through the images online – and very well done. They look great. I totally get your premise – and its interesting when you go to the airport and overhear the Americans chatting to find that the romantic line they have been sold doesn’t match their experience. They aren’t stupid – maybe just we are. Anyway – thats all it was, just a simple message to say well done, and good luck.
Talk soon.

Progress toward the exhibition

I have now finished re-editing my series and have refreshed my website , I have to admit that I have been procrastinating about this for some time but last week the PhotoIreland website launched and I was galvanised to see my work featured under the open program and in particular I was delighted to see that my image is the headline image for the open program.  Since then OCA have also been spreading the word over their social media feeds and the news was mentioned in last Friday’s weekend bulletin and today it appeared on the OCA Facebook page.  All in all it feels great to see my work up that and I spent the latter half of last week basking in the glow.


Prints from No Place Like Home on the wall of my studio


But that wasn’t all I did last week.  I have finally loaded a roll of fine art paper onto my printer, something that I wasn’t familiar with and to be honest was a little scared of too.  I had decided some time ago that I was going to reduce the costs of the exhibition by printing my own work and making use of the investment I have made in my printer and the other consumable print supplies that I have invested in.  I have made my first large test print and begun to figure out how I will hang the work.


The first print rolling off my printer

I have decided that I am hanging all of the prints unframed.  For one thing it saves significant money and also I am not dependent on a third party who might or might not deliver on time.  I retain full control of the process from start to finish.

I contacted the Linda Shevlin, the curator from Roscommon arts centre who curated an exhibition of Martin Parr’s work which I visited in 2016 to ask how these prints were mounted and she gave me a link  to a website that specialises in magnets for hanging prints and other art works.  I have to say that in the example give the finish is very neat and professional.  The down side is that it involves drilling the walls which I am allowed to do but which will take some time and I may need a second person to help me.  There are two main options, the first involves a counter sunk magnet that is mounted on the wall with a screw and a plastic wall plug.  Then the counter sunk magnet is matched with a disc magnet (of the opposite polarity) on the print.  I am using 308 gsm paper and the companies website recommends 4 magnets with a pulling power of 0.16 kg.  The weakest power is 0.5 kg so I would need 8 magnets per print by 22 prints.  The second option is to do with out the counter sunk magnets and use normal wood screws made of ferrous metal and a magnet with the same diameter as the head of the screw.  The company do sell other magnets which are self-adhesive however I have enquired and there is a danger that these may damage the wall surface and paint work when they are removed.  I may still go down this route but for now it seems a lot of work to take on if I am hanging alone.


Martin exhibition at Roscommon arts centre


I had a conversation with Julia Gelezova – the general manager of the PhotoIreland festival about mounting my work unframed without mounting board and she was able to share her experience of showing work this way in previous events by either simply nailing it to the wall or using nails and clips as below.

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print mounted with fold back clips and nails


print mounted with bull dog clips

So I went looking locally for nails and these type of clips.  I find the bull dog clips a bit rough looking.  I also revisited the venue to look at the walls to see what they are made of.  The main wall is masonry/ hard plaster and the other smaller walls are partition walls.  So I bought some nice, neat panel pins to try on the walls here at home.

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Panel pin hammered into partition wall

Unfortunately they will not penetrate hard plaster or masonry as the photo below shows


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Panel pins and masonry walls do not mix well.

So in conclusion this week I will have to go shopping for both fold back clips and see what I can find.  Also masonry nails, nice neat masonry nails or else I will have to find some other way to mount the images.  I am hoping to test hang here at home this week and finalise my decision so that I can collect my materials.

Resolving and re-editimg No Place Like Home

As I prepare for my upcoming exhibition I am still reflecting on the overall set of images and on the look out for images that might add something.  One theme that is definitely floating around in contemporary discourse at the moment is homelessness and the ongoing fire sale of what are termed as “non performing home loans” by Irish banks to foreign vulture funds who then repossess the houses and evict the occupants – in many cases these are families who were struggling to pay their mortgages and had got into arrears.  Last week I read this quote by veteran feminist activist Nell McCafferty who was speaking in the context of the upcoming referendum on the 8th amendment

“We need to talk about Enda Kenny’s legacy to Ireland; the highest rate of homelessness known since the famine. There is no room at the inn for nurturing the fruit of our wombs. Modern family life dictates a two-income, mother-father combination of paid working careers, with the newborn dropped off at the creche when only months old.”(McCafferty. N, 2018)

I think I have mentioned elsewhere that while the heritage and tourism arm of the state are busy pushing the narrative of Ireland as a romantic utopia using the image of the west we have a homelessness crisis and it was this that influenced me to take this image:

Brian Cooney Photography-1001134

Then a couple of weeks ago after a heavy shower the sun came out and right outside my door there was this amazing rainbow and for once I actually managed to grab my camera to photograph it, at the time I was thinking of Paul Graham but then this image by Roger Palmer came into my mind.  I’ve been looking for a way to use the Irish cottage as a symbol but sort of subvert it.  I didn’t have long but have managed to shoot a few different versions below.  I’ve printed these and hung them on the wall in my room and may or may not use them.


Another image that I have been thinking about is this one below featuring WB Yeats, our national poet, the image reminds me of this image by John Kippin.  Much of this part of Ireland is known as Yeats country and the tourist industry is quick to piggy back on his work and many of the places he has written of are on the thirst amp as well as his grave. His most famous poem is probably the Lake Isle of Inisfree.  Inisfree has become a signifier in its own right and I have been on the lookout for places, things etc that are called Inisfree.  Here in Sligo/ Leitrim there are a couple which I have visited but so far I haven’t been able to find an image that I am happy with.



Visit to exhibition space

On Thuirsday last I paid a visit to the exhibition space in Ballina public library.  I had spoken to the head librarian and the space was empty so it was a great opportunity to bring along a couple of prints – framed and unframed – to see how they looked in the space.

I also wanted to test out some command strips:


3M Command strips


The image above shows an A3 image, framed and mounted and hung using command strips.  The piece of paper hanging alongside is A2 dimensions.  Note also the power/intranet port between the two that I will have to negiotte around when it comes to the final hanging.  Whether I decide on framed or unframed prints it I think command strips will be suitable for hanging.  I took that framed image home and rehung it using the command strips and its still there.


I also took along some unframed A3 images above and (briefly) played around with different ways of hanging them.  IMG_0795

I also had a good look at the lights within the room.  There are 2 strips of these spots that move along a track.  One is aimed at the main wall that I will be using, the other is not and is also not working.  I may have some scope here to play around with the lighting, the room itself is quite bright and perhaps the spots could be used to highlight certain images, a bit like punctuation?  For instance I could spot light the start of a narrative thread or chapter within the flow of the exhibition.



detail of spotlight from exhibition space

I will revisit the space again  next week and am hoping to see some more work hung here to get some ideas.  In the meantime I have discovered that my printer can in fact print larger than A3 as it prints from roll or sheet media.  This week I am going to run some large test prints and mount them around the house.

Mother nature and femininity

Trawling back through the images I have taken in the last few months I came across this image that I took a few weeks ago in Co. Wicklow.  Obvisously I was taken by the text just peeping out of the shadows and I had to wait quite a while for the shadows to recede enough.  Looking at the image I was reminded of the parrallel between patriarchal attitudes to women and to Nature and the need to dominate and possess.  We frequently talk about “nature” and our love of the great outdoors but we rarely mean nature in its raw and truly wild state.  So many people like their nature coiffed, ordered and epilated.  I started to play around with some images from my archive and have laid soem out in book format in Indesign.


Untitled spread 1Untitled page spread 2