View Full Version : Fiber base prints, dry mount or not?

brian steinberger
25-Feb-2006, 10:52
I've heard very different opinions as to archivability of dry mounting fiber base prints, even in pervious threads I've read in this forum. I currently dry mount all my Fuji Crystal archive paper color prints and prefer the print to be perfectly flat. I'm just now starting to get nice fine black and white prints on FB from my darkroom that I would like to frame. Does dry mounting FB paper really affect it's archivability? What about spray mounting and other "archival adheisives" if there is such a thing? I know that photo corner mounts are the safest, but I (and I'm sure alot of other's too) prefer the print to be prefectly and completely flat under the glass.

William Mortensen
25-Feb-2006, 12:35
Brian- I did photo-conservation work for quite a few years for the NPS and Arizona Historical Society. I dry-mount my fiber-based prints without any hesitation or second thoughts. If you use archival museum board and dry-mount tissue, any reduction of print-life is by a very minor percentage of the print's lifespan. Personally, I'd rather have the print look the way I want it for, say, 200 years than look badly (in my eyes) for 210 years. (Whether the last 175 years of that will be at the bottom of a landfill, I prefer not to go into here...)

Conservators in museums will rightly not dry-mount any print that comes into their collection, as it is their responsibility to preserve the print as an artifact the way it came to them. But as major public and private collections are accepting color and digital work, I don't see how they could refuse a dry-mounted FB print over archival issues, especially considering the roster of photographers who as a rule dry- or wet-mounted their exhibition prints, (Adams, Weston, Steiglitz, Caponigro, Strand...)

Louie Powell
25-Feb-2006, 12:46
Brian -

They make Fords and Chevy's so folks have a choice.

The same is true of mounting methods. And frankly, the process of choice is equally emotional.

First - the matter of archival. I believe that the universal view is that maximum archival means reversable, and adhesive mounting (spray, pressure sensitive or heat sensitive) are generally viewed as permanent. So those who are adamant about archival treatment generally dislike any mounting process that involves adhesives.

In most instances, prints have overmatts that cover the mount board. An overmatt can always be replaced if it is ever damaged. So the concern for reversability really is that there should be a way to recover in the event the mount board is damaged.

That said, I still prefer dry mounting. In my opinion (those are critical words in any discusison about mounting), dry mounting produces the most attractive product. It may not be perfectly archival, but I am satisfied that if something happens to the mount, I can cut around the print and remount on another sheet of board.

In my opinion, spray mounting is not as good as dry mounting. My experience was that the tendency of double weight prints to curl was too great and would eventually overcome the bond at the edges of prints mounted using sprays. I think the reaons for this is that when you roll the prrint with a brayer, you unavoidably squeeze more adhesive out around the edges, thereby making the bond weaker.

I have experimented briefly with pressure sensitive adhesive sheets (aka, the 3M stuff). My experience was positive, but I really didn't do enough to have confidence that my limited conclusions can be generalized. I do know that the material is more expensive that heat-sensitive mounting materials - I have the advantage of owning a heat press that I was able to purchase (used) at a very good price. I suppose that if I had to start over, and if I were faced with the prospect of purchasing a new heat press at street prices, I might have to re-evaluated the economics.

Jerry Flynn
25-Feb-2006, 14:53
I wanted to add that Light Impressions sells an archival dry mount tissue that can be removed if it is reheated. I have not used it, so I can't make any particular recommendation, other than it would possibly cover the reversible issue with regard to conservation. So, if you prefer the appearance of a dry mounted print, as I do, you could mount with this material and put a label on the back with instructions for removing the print, I suppose.

As I write this, I am looking at several prints on the wall from my collection. The include Brett Weston, Paul Caponigro, Michael Kenna, George Tice and a special edition Ansel Adams. They are all dry mounted. However, as Mark points out, above, I would never dry mount another photographer's print if they had not done so themselves.

It seems to me that the corner mount process became fashionable (and I use the term advisedly) in the 1980's or so . Before that, the argument was sometimes made that dry mounting with an archival tissue "sealed" the back of the print against airborne contaminants.

Personnally, as a hobbyist, worrying about whether the prints I make will last 200 years seems a little like overweaning pride. Of course, it is different if you are actually selling prints to collectors as fine art or they are going into museum collections.

William Mortensen
25-Feb-2006, 20:08
"Reversability" is an issue for conservators who want to be able to undo any conservation/restoration treatment done to an artifact should the treatment prove harmful at some later date. No reputable conservator would reverse something that was deliberately done by an artist as part of a piece. Unmounting an artist-mounted print would be akin to cropping, toning, or otherwise modifying it.

"Archival" is a nebulous term, as evidenced by Fuji's use of it with their "Crystal Archive" papers. There is no set lifespan that qualifies as "archival", and "processed to archival standards" varies in meaning from photographer to photographer. If you want to call an image on unfixed printing-out paper "archival", even though it will fade with a few minutes exposure to room-light, it's your call.

neil poulsen
26-Feb-2006, 11:57

What do you use to "dry" mount your Fuji Archive prints? Is this a heat based process? If so, I'm assuming it doesn't affect print color. (Or does it?)

William Mortensen
26-Feb-2006, 12:32
Sorry, Neil, I've never mounted a Fuji Archive print, but I would assume they would mount the same as any other C-Type color print, using ColorMount or some other low-temperature (175 F or less) heat-based tissue. But I'm pretty ignorant Fuji light-jet papers; others here could chime in with first-hand expertise.

26-Feb-2006, 14:49
you're right that oppinions differ on the topic. a lot of the difference comes down to how you regard the mat itself. photographers who consider the mat/overmat to be intrinsic to the final work often chose to dry mount, because the process makes the whole presentation semi-permanent. other photographers think of the mat assmebly simply as protection and display (much like the frame) and therefore want to be easily removeable or replaceable.

most curators and conservators i've heard from are in the second group--they'd like to be able to replace the mat easlily if they need to or want to. so they tend to prefer that the work not be dry mounted. but i've never heard of it being such a big issue that it actually influenced anyone's decision to acquire something. if they want your work, they'll probably buy it even you spray glued it to recycled chipboard. but they'll also probably be annoyed, at least privately.

if you do drymount, i'd suggest researching the materials and picking something that's reversible, at least by a conservator. otherwise, something as simple (and likely) as a banged up corner on the mat could be seen as damage to the work itself.

Jerry Flynn
27-Feb-2006, 08:01
As a note to what paulr has said, I have seen photographers dry mount say an 11X14 print to a 16X20 board and then corner mount that assembly in a larger, maybe 20X24 overmat. That way, if the mat gets dinged on the edges or soiled, it can be replaced without having to remove the dry monted image from its mount. I would think a 2-ply mount would work best in this type of application.

John Villinski
27-Feb-2006, 15:02
Regarding Colormount tissues - I would suggest going to B&H or United Manufacturers over Light Impressions. You will save a lot of money.

12-Sep-2006, 18:43
.........most curators and conservators i've heard from are in the second group--they'd like to be able to replace the mat easlily if they need to or want to. so they tend to prefer that the work not be dry mounted.............

I dry mount to 4 ply museum board and mat with the same board. The mat is hinged to the top of the mount board so, if damaged, it can easily be replaced. I thought everyone did it that way.

Doremus Scudder
13-Sep-2006, 01:46
I like very precise print borders and flat prints. Therefore, I trim the print on a rotary trimmer to exact dimensions, dry-mount on 4-ply board and overmat using the same with a window cut to slightly larger than the print dimensions. Signature goes under the print on the mat board. I recently attended a showing of Weston and Modotti prints that were tipped on the boards and held down with overmats that impinged on the image area. Although the prints were of great quality, I found the presentation less than satisfactory.

I use the seal reversible BufferMount tissue. It has come in handy a time or two when I have made a mistake. I can remove the print and mount it on another board that way. Primarily, however, I believe the buffered mounting tissue to be more "archival." Just in case someone down the road does need to unmount one of my prints, I always sign them lightly on the back in pencil before mounting.

The only reason I could imagine for someone who owns one of my prints to remove it from its mount board is if the board were contaminated with something that could damage the print. Overmats can be replaced if they are damaged and ugly, but I would hope that whoever did that would match color and dimensions of the original as much as possible.

For me, the print, mat and window comprise one unit. I get to decide on border sizes, print placement, etc. all part of the artistic decisions for me. The signature is also a part of the entire ensemble.