Just wondering if you have any ideas for adhesives and protective finishes for photographs that will not be encased behind glass.
The Buddhists have a term anitya, meaning impermanence. The concept behind it is that life is change. All things change. Try as we might, we cannot stop change. Indeed, change is the essence of life. This is not just philosophy, but practical, too; even preserved in the freezer, the ice cream eventually gets too old to eat.
Photographs are no different. We can do our best to make them "archival" but it is an illusion. Anything produced on paper will dissolve, and fairly quickly. Badly produced and handled prints might last a decade before they fade. Meticulously produced ones might last a dozen or more decades, maybe. To the fruit fly, both are an eternity. To the art consumer 500 years from now, both are fleetingly short. It's all a matter of scale.
I decided early in my career that this was not worth losing sleep over. Sure, I use the best materials I can find. Sure, I pay attention to the papers and chemicals I use to make prints. I strategically use software formats that have the best chances to be accessible in the near-term future. But fundamentally I've found it more productive to think of my photography as a performance rather than an archeological specimen. Besides, if they last into the distant future, I'll be no happier because, ahem, I'll be dead. I find it much more productive to concern myself with the image as perceived now, by people living now, in the present moment.
I prefer to display my work without glass because they look best that way. I'd rather have them look their best now than have them exhibited with a compromise (glass) that diminishes the visual experience but preserves them so that someday, somewhere they might be seen by somebody, somehow, probably behind glass, again visually compromised. Let them live! Let them shine in the sun for a day! Let them breathe and have a chance to delight some viewer today, while they can.
I don't spray my prints with "protectants" or preservatives. If, in the course of exhibition, they become damaged, well, I'll print them again if it's important for me to do so.
Besides, I simply cannot take myself and my artwork so seriously -- not with a straight face. I suppose somebody might someday take my work seriously and believe it needs to survive for the innumerable benefits it would bestow on future generations of art-starved masses. I would be tempted to bonk such a somebody on the head with my tripod and advise them to get a life.
It's funny, but one of the qualities that is most prized on the Antiques Road Show is the patina of wear and time. Nothing devalues an antique like cleaning it up and applying a fresh coat of varnish. Too bad we can't learn to accept this line of thinking about photographs. Maybe the dings and flaws acquired over time should be considered the venerable characteristics that show the photograph has been well used and enjoyed by its previous owners.