Presenting Polaroids Part 7: Making A Portfolio Boxed Set

Note: The companion YouTube video can be found at the bottom of this post.

In this final episode of Presenting Polaroids I’m going to look at a hybrid approach that lies somewhere between an album and a framed print hung on a wall. A portfolio box is basically a set of matted prints stored in a presentation box. It’s an approach you might use for a set of curated prints that hang together thematically. Or they might be a collection outstanding Polaroids taken over a period of time. Unlike hanging a few framed prints on the wall—and let’s face it, finding a good amount of wall space can be difficult—showing matted prints in a box allows a viewer to sit down and browse an entire series of photos. And, compared to an album, viewing a set of SX-70 prints highlighted in a white mat conveys a sense of value that you, as the photographer, place on your images. And, if you were pursuing gallery shows, showing a boxed portfolio of your Polaroids set in clean white mats is an expression of your professionalism, that you are serious about your craft.          

I chose a portfolio box approach for my Camp Morton series of black and white SX-70 photos. It seemed clear that each photo needed the space of a broad white window mat to look its best. I selected 41 images to be included in the series which, once matted, managed to fill two portfolio boxes, one 1-½” and the other 3” deep.

Archival storage boxed are usually available in 1 ½” and 3” depths. I’ve found that the 1 ½” deep boxes can comfortably hold 10 SX-70s matted with a 4-ply window mat and a 2-ply backing board. The 3” deep boxes can comfortably hold 21-22.

As I’ve mentioned before, matting and framing photographs is hardly a novel presentation technique and I’ve put together my own matting tutorial, which you can view on my “Presenting Polaroids: Framing the Image” video. Following the same methodology of using precut mats and backing boards, I was able to efficiently mat the 41 images in my Camp Morton series in two days for a cost that didn’t break the bank. Pop those matted photos into attractive black archival storage boxes and I have a portfolio that presents my photographs to their best, looks professional and, as a bonus, helps preserve them for a very long time.

About the Camp Morton Series

Camp Morton is situated on the  western shores of Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba’s Interlake region. It was established as a fresh-air (or summer) camp by the Roman Catholic Church in 1921, a place for disadvantaged youth from the nearby city of Winnipeg to experience a more natural, lakeside environment. The camp has long-since ceased operations and it’s now a provincial park but remnants of the old summer camp still exist, albeit in various states of disrepair. I’ve visited Camp Morton Provincial Park many times over the years but it took a recent walk along the lakeshore for me to take notice of the remnants of concrete steps, retaining walls and foundations that, over the years, have slipped down the steep eroding banks and onto the beach.

There are elements still identifiable as stairs and walls but, in many cases, the concrete is so eroded by the summer waves and winter ice of Lake Winnipeg—the lake completely freezes over in winter—that they are nearly indistinguishable from the surrounding rocks and boulders. I was struck by these pieces of concrete, transformed by nature back into a more natural state, now less a part of the human world and more a part of the natural world. I find it touching that this summer camp whose purpose was to re-acquaint youth with the natural order is now being reclaimed, however slowly, by nature itself.

Which led to my series of Polaroids, exploring the extent and progress of this transformation across the entire Camp Morton site. I haven’t given the project a title but I’m thinking “Last Summer” might be appropriate. Using an SX-70 camera and film seemed appropriate for the moment-in-time record of a place in slow transition. The entire series was completed with Polaroid’s Black and White 600 film because its rich warm tones work so well with the architectural and natural subjects I was exploring.


The following video will show you how to build your own boxed portfolio. Be sure to catch my “easter end” at the end of the video, my free framing gift to you!

Here’s what you will need to build your own boxed portfolio:

Black Storage Boxes:

Designed for archival storage of artifacts in a museum or gallery storage room. Usually they are made with grey or tan board and black metal corner joints.

However, I’ve found that the black board versions are very presentable and quite affordable. The black corner joints blend in and are not so obvious.

If you want, you can step up to a presentation box, which typically has a nicer cloth covering…but cost a lot more as well.

For my boxes, I’ve stuck to the 8″ x 10″ size, which provides a nice wide white matted area around my Polaroids without being too large.

There are various sources for black storage boxes:  

Archival Methods 8 ½” x 10 ½” Black Drop Front Boxes made with archival boxboard https://www.archivalmethods.com/product/drop-front-boxes-1-1-2-inch

Lineco 8” x 10” Black Drop Front Archival Boxes https://www.lineco.com/lineco-drop-front-archival-boxes-black.html

Light Impressions Black TrueCore Dropfront Box http://www.lightimpressionsdirect.com/flat-photo-storage-boxes/

Carr McLean (Canada) CARMAC Black Drop Front Boxes https://www.carrmclean.ca/carmacr-black-drop-front-boxes.html

Matting the Photos:

See my “Presenting Polaroids: Framing the Image” video instructions for matting SX-70 photos. 

8” x 10” 2-ply acid-free conservation mat board for backing

8” x 10” 4-ply acid-free conservation mat board with window cut to fit image area.

Recommended window dimensions/placement: 

  • Window width: 3 ⅛”
  • Window height: 3 ¼”
  • Top of mat: 2 ¾”
  • Bottom of mat: 4”

Sources for custom mat boards:

  • Archival Methods (USA) does 4-py custom mats with rectangular or round windows and 2-ply backing board. They will also assemble a 2-ply mounting board and 4-ply window mat with linen tape at no additional charge. https://www.archivalmethods.com.

More From Me:

Check out my SX-70 YouTube videos at https://www.youtube.com/c/WalkClickMake

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dfirman/

WalkClickMake blogsite: https://www.walkclickmake.com

Firmangallery portfolio and store: https://www.firmangallery.com

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