Diversity in Gum Bichromate Photography


The photograph that I post on Monday, “House on the cliff”, was just a beginning in printing that negative. It was full of staining and I needed to find out what is causing it. I play a bit with retouching and made this one:

house on the cliff

(click to see bigger image)

Then (as Crystal Denke Edwards also suggested) I reconsider to put sizing on paper. As we recently moved, I now live in a rental house and I do not have commodity of ventilated darkroom. That means, I dismissed the idea to use gelatin hardening with formaldehyde. At first I used one thin layer white acrylic paint diluted with water, dried, preshrink it and then applied another layer only with gum arabic, dried and then work as usual. I didn’t change pigments at this point. They remained as follows: Daler Rowney – gamboge yellow, magenta mixed with alizarin crimson, prussain blue.

And the results were better, but still the stain remains. Picture here:

(click to see bigger image)

My first shopping in Ireland were for watercolour paints. I never before worked with Daler Rowney pigments and I thought I can give it a go. Now it was the time to dismiss alizarin crimson and prussian blue and substitute them with magenta and cobalt blue from the same manufacturer. I also put one layer of diluted white acrylic paint (dry, preshrink etc), another layer gum arabic with white acrylic and water. And improvement is obvious. Here is the final photo:

(click to see bigger image)

Now, I could go and make another three layers and get more intense colours, but I will stop here. I like the way it looks right now.

I think that this illustrates how diverse and interesting this process is. It is a treasure found in every new layer in every step, beginning with scene, making negative, then transforming it with pigments etc. As Christopher James said in his (one of three) book about Alternative photography, in chapter about gum bichromate:

Here’s the truth… In gum bichromate printing there are very few absolutely correct ways to do anything. Here’s another bit of reality… In my experience, gum bichromate printers are the most passionate, and hard-headed, of all alternative process artists when it comes to their particular way of doing the process. …

As most of you now, I started with alternative processes with iron based processes and when I finally arrived to gum, I was working with oil paints and gum, acrylic, and watercolours, and watercolour became the most seductive paint for me. Gum bichromate shadowed all the other processes and I really don’t want to do anything else.Diversity in Gum Bichromate Photography



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