To me, the whole imaging and viewing process must become one to be truly successful. Some photographers never get into the darkroom or do the printing themselves. They capture the image and leave the rest to others.
I just cannot do that. I would feel like missing 50% of the creative process. So, it must be image capture plus image manipulation. But why stop there?
The mount, the mat and the frame highlight the print. They assure a proper 'environment' and eliminate surrounding 'noise'. That's part of the viewing experience. To me, it's part of the creative process. I want it to be part of my creative process. It cannot be left to others without potentially changing the appearance of the 'whole' print.
I can take this further (and often do):
1. What color and texture does the display wall have?
2. Is it hung alone or as a panel? What's the arrangement?
Some images work great on the right side of a panel but disturb the optical balance if shown on the left!
3. Is sufficient lighting used? Is it too bright? Is glare reduced?
Dim lighting makes for muddy images and dead shadows. Too much light is rare but it can kill midtones and highlights. Glare is a nuisance, and annoyed customers don't buy.
Over the top? Maybe, but I can tell you, points 1 to 3 can make the difference between a mediocre and a successful display. And if that's the case, mounting, matting and framing will make a huge difference!
Don't leave that to others, unless they can do it better than you can. If so, let them do it, but I would consider learning it is another step towards perfection.
But granted it is a rather minor issue. And we are talking storage beyond our lifespans here, too.
And I am pretty much 100% with Ralph on the finishing work and display of our prints. I am not just an image-maker, but also a print-maker. It is what I find rewarding.
I don't agree with the opinion "if the mat gets broken the image is ruined". Does not the mat somehow protect the image, is it not more protected with it fixed to a strong surface, than the paper alone? Also the overmat and framing will hide faults damaged corners etc....if that should happen, but you should anyway treat your drymounted picture as carefully as your paper alone.
You can also get mount tissues (from Seal/Bienfang) where you can remove the image from the matboard by heating, if needed. Though I have never tried this.
For me a perfectly flat image, dry mounted, makes a big difference, and for baryt paper I would never consider another option.
For example back in the good old days, some platinum prints were never fully cleared, and ways have been developed to treat these to preserve them from further damage...and even reverse some of the damage perhaps. This assumes of course that the print is worthy of the time and effort.
Does anybody remember "Archival" mount tissue? I got some while I was in college and the tissue releases after a certain temperature is reached. I guess this would allow you to remove the photo when the mount board is damaged. Tried it once and never bought anymore.
I'm afraid, you're missing Vaughn's point. He's talking extrinsic sources of image attack.
From the instant of its creation, a silver-based image faces attack from a variety of sources. Some are internal and essential to the materials photographic papers are designed and manufactured with. They come in the form of chemicals, inherent or added to the paper, the emulsion or the coating.
Other sources of attack are of external origin. Nevertheless, some are intrinsic to the photographic process and can be minimized but not completely avoided. Most processing chemicals fall into this category. In the very beginning of a printís life, and only for a few minutes, we need them to be present to complete their designated tasks. Beyond that point, we like to rid the print of them quickly and entirely. Fortunately, these sources of image deterioration are under our control, but no matter how attentive our work might be, unavoidable traces of them will remain in the print forever, and given the right environmental conditions, they will have an opportunity to attack the very image they helped to create.
The remaining extrinsic sources of image attack are hiding patiently in our environment, ready to start their destructive work as soon as the print is processed and dry. They can broadly be separated into reducing and oxidizing agents. Roughly until the introduction of the automobile, reducing agents were the most common sources of image deterioration. Then, oxidizing agents like aldehyde, peroxide and ozone took over. Their presence peaked in the Western World around 1990 and fortunately began to decline since.
In conclusion, Vaughn is correct, the mounting tissue will protect the print from extrinsic sources to some degree. Alternatively, people have used plastic barrier sheets behind the mounting board, but this creates other issues, such as trapped moisture. As Vaughn said, I wouldn't lose sleep over it, but it is a benefit of drymounting.
Freestyle Photo has some inexpensive Arista tissues from a nice provider. Even these are archival and image can be removed from mat board by reheating. Check the pdf on this page:
Do anybody have experience with reheating and changing matboards with drymounting, does it work well?
Ralph, in your second last paragraph, this rings a bell to me: it was described (oxides of nitrogen from environmental pollution) as REDOX attack (red oxide "rust" in mono prints, typically resin-coated papers, much less so with fibre-base). Several of my early resin-based framed prints were tarnished by REDOX around the same time you mentioned a decline in the incidence was noticed (1990 onward, to say around 1995). It was an exasperating period of many ruined prints living, as I did, right on a main heavy traffic road. But the jury was always out whether this was a contributor or something else. Selenium toning was cited as a reasonable safeguard against REDOX, but never a guarantee. Mono prints I've had produced on RC paper since 1997 and given MGCF treatment have been entirely free of any malaise.
I think some dry mount tapes have removal-grade adhesive; my framer has on occasion disassembled frames and backing and removed prints to realign them in the mat (a fault of rushed jobbing at that time). Nowadays I don't see any dry mount taping. All I get is fancy stuff...