Richard Laugharn 

and the

Fine Art of Framing

Text by William R. Thompson  Photos courtesy of Richard Laugharn

Designer and Photographer Richard Laugharn in his Workshop at Fine Art Framing.

For nearly 25 years Richard Laugharn has been designing exquisitely beautiful frames in his workshop at Fine Art Framing. The Tempe-based company, which Laugharn founded in 1993, has built a national reputation for its custom frames that combine traditional craftsmanship with modern design and the highest conservation standards. His clients include artists, collectors, galleries and museums throughout the country.

As a photographer himself, Laugharn approaches each frame with an artist’s understanding of materials. Constructed of fine hardwoods such as maple and walnut, his elegant, understated profiles allow the work of art to speak for itself. “We pride ourselves on the sympathetic correspondence of frame and artwork,” explains Laugharn. “The resulting frame both protects and quietly celebrates the object it houses.”

Top left: Free Shade, circa 1934

Bottom left: Frank after two days without sleep, 1938

RightIn Deep, circa 1930s.

When not at work in his studio, Laugharn can be found exploring remote areas of the Sonoran Desert, where he has been photographing more than 100 of the region’s native plants, documenting their lifecycles and surrounding landscapes. Of these, one of his favorite muses is the Sykes Crater Saguaro in Pinacate, Mexico, which he first photographed in 2000. Laugharn recently returned from his 58th visit to the cactus. His photographs from this ongoing series have been exhibited at the Phoenix Art Museum, Etherton Gallery in Tucson and ASU’s Northlight Gallery.

In addition to his work as both a master framer and photographer, Laugharn is also a prolific collector and curator of vernacular photography – those endearing, sometimes whimsical pictures of everyday life taken by ordinary people. Once dismissed as oddball snapshots, vernacular photographs are now highly prized by collectors, curators and museums as a unique form of folk art.

Held every December, Laugharn’s annual Vernacular Photography Exhibition and Sale has become a local tradition that attracts fellow artists and collectors with an eye for the unusual. Laugharn’s deep interest in the history of the Southwest informs his selections. This year’s sale on December 2 showcases rare and unusual vintage snapshots and postcards spanning the 19th century to the present, with an emphasis on Arizona and desert-themed subjects. Adding to their charm, each vernacular photograph in the sale is presented in a hand-milled artisan frame designed by Laugharn, ready for hanging or gifting.

“Found photographs put us in touch with the past,” notes Laugharn. “While that past was never easy, these old images often seem to celebrate simpler pleasures and to take more satisfaction within the bounds of what many were proud to call an ordinary life. Today, when we seem to have lost a sliver of that satisfaction, it is good to be reminded of a time when it was more commonplace.”

WHAT: Vernacular Photography Exhibition and Sale

WHEN: December 2, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

WHERE: Fine Art Framing

2010 E. University Drive, Suite 11

Tempe, AZ 85281

CONTACT:  480-921-8616


Left: Arizona Paper Moon, circa 1900