Christchurch Earthquake Photographer Gilly Needham releases print

Christchurch Earthquake Photo by Gilly Needham
Gillian (Gilly) Needham has this week released a print of her famous photograph taken of dust clouds across Christchurch at the moment of the Feb 22nd earthquake. Fashion designer Needham was at home in Cashmere when the earthquake struck.  Her camera was sitting on the kitchen bench and she grabbed it to capture the scene in the city below.   A few hours later a low-resolution photo was on Facebook and it quickly went around the world to become one of the most enduring images of the Christchurch earthquake.  A large panorama shaped print of the photograph has now been printed and is available exclusively from Christchurch art print specialists New Zealand Fine Prints.

Picture hanging advice following the Christchurch earthquakes

Framed pictures dropped off walls in large numbers during the recent earthquakes in Christchurch.  NZ Fine Prints is based in Christchurch and we have been dealing with hundreds of insurance quotes for replacement or repair of damaged prints since September 2010. 

Our staff are frequently asked "How do we re-hang our pictures to minimise the risk of damaged artworks in future quakes?  So we decided to find out more about the seismic performance of picture hanging systems commonly used in NZ.  We were surprised to find that even the most basic system can actually do a pretty good job of protecting both the artwork and the occupants of the home, office or gallery (albeit with a couple of relatively minor tweaks).

The first piece of advice we have for hanging framed pictures in New Zealand's seismically active zones is don't hang any heavy artworks above your bed.  The average person spends a third of their lifetime in bed - simple arithmatic means that the chances of being in bed when an earthquake strikes are quite high and no picture hanging system can protect you from structural damage to the actual wall causing the artwork to drop on your head.

The traditional picture hanging method using wire or cord on a conventional picture hook (pictured below) can actually be easily modified to greatly reduce the risk of falling down according to Ian Cooke of leading NZ picture framing supplier Larson Juhl. Ian manages the South Island branch of Larson Juhl and has been in the picture framing industry for 30 years. He told us about a couple of simple tricks:

Conventional Picture Hooks (image courtesy Larson Juhl)
  1. Close the gap in the hook making it less likely the cord will bounce through the gap.
  2. Adequately secure the hook into the wall - into a stud if possible.
Gallery Hanging Track (image courtesy of Sydney Art & Framing Supplies)

According to Ian valuable artworks in galleries such as Christchurch Art Gallery which have security hangers behind the pictures also came through the earthquakes well because these types of hangers "allow the item to be slid down over two metal brackets and then further secured with a slotted security device at the bottom of the frame".

Another option is the gallery style hanging tracks that are about to be installed at NZ Fine Prints new gallery outside of Christchurch's CBD. This is a track that is securely screwed to the top of a wall employing a series of suspended nylon or fine wire droppers to which custom made hooks are attached (see picture above of a powder coated gallery style hanging track). The pictures are then hung from these hooks.  Ian Cooke tells us that "while the pictures swung around on the droppers" during the Christchurch quakes people have reported to him "they did not fall off".  Gallery hanging tracks such as the Stas brand which is stocked by Larson Juhl also have the benefit of letting galleries, homes and offices change their wall displays as often as they like without drilling new holes or damaging walls.