This gum bichromate thing…

This morning I started another gum print. Got two layers on today. I think I’m being deviled by that constant enemy of all hand-coated processes, low humidity. When my paper dries between coats, it dries out so much that when you apply a second layer, the paper starts to buckle even when you have the paper taped down to mask the borders because the gum emulsion is so much wetter than the paper. This means you have an uneven coat with some areas in the valleys between the buckled areas on the paper that get too much pigment, no matter how carefully you work the coating. I’m still getting the kinks out of the mixing process, as getting the right amount of pigment for any given color is a long cycle of trial and error.

The John Dugdale School

In doing a bit of browsing around today in response to a Facebook posting, I came across a link for the John Dugdale School. I once had the opportunity to take a two-day seminar with him at his studio in New York City. The experience of studying with him was transcendent – I count that weekend as one of the greatest influences ever on my photographic trajectory. The fact that his VISION is so strong even with his sight almost entirely gone is just one of the inspirational things about working with him. He’s also the only person I’ve ever felt comfortable enough with as a photographer that if he asked me to pose nude for him, I would. He’s such a brilliant, gentle soul, full of searing honesty, that being around him brings out the same in you, and helps you make more revealing, connected photographs. My intent is to find out if the school is still operating, and take another seminar with him when the weather is warmer. John, you see, is a bit like John Coffer – he prefers to live a 19th century life, with minimal trappings and intrusions of the electronic world. His farmhouse in upstate New York has no central heat or air conditioning, most likely no phone and definitely no internet. I wouldn’t be surprised if the road is dirt, for that matter. I’ve posted a link to his website for the school in my links. In any case, here’s to you, John, may you make many more photos for many decades to come!

And now for something completely different… a Rolleiflex

I do on occasion actually shoot smaller format images, and even color once in a while. Here’s a graffiti grab shot I took with my Rolleiflex 2.8 E. Exposure unrecorded.

Graffiti, Wall, 14th Street

This was as much a test of film as it was playing with a camera. I was trying out the new Kodak Ektar 100. I’d say from this it was a great success. This was a scan from the negative, using Digital ICE for dust removal, a tiny bit of Unsharp Masking, and a little bit of color correction. No other manipulation.

New studio space!!!!

I have a copy of the lease in hand now, so it’s official. I will be moving in to my new (shared) studio space January 15. I’ll be shooting and teaching classes out of 443 I (Eye) Street, NW. It’s walking distance from Chinatown and Mount Vernon Square Metro stations, a short bus ride from Union Station, and there is on-street and off-street parking available nearby. Watch this blog for an announcement about a studio open house, and a schedule of classes. I expect to have my first class in March.

Pre-acidification of Rives BFK

Well, my experiment with pre-acidification of Rives BFK for doing palladium/platinum/Ziatypes was a success. I got a flawless Ziatype over which I will now try several gum layers. My pre-acidification consisted of a 5 minute bath in 5% Oxalic Acid. I sized the paper AFTER the acidification bath. Image to follow.

Here is the image with the first two layers of gum over Ziatype. Colors are Alizarin Crimson and Sepia. I’m planning on doing at least two more layers, probably another sepia or burnt Sienna and then another red, maybe something deeper red.

Heart In Hand

Prep Work

Well, today was spent prepping paper for gum and gum-over-platinum printing. I did two batches of 10 sheets of 11×15 Rives BFK. The first batch had an oxalic acid pre-bath. The last time I used Rives BFK for a platinum/palladium print, I got these funny discolored blotches, which could be attributable to paper pH, so I’m trying the acid pre-bath to see if that makes a difference. Twenty sheets doesn’t sound like a lot, until you realize that I can really only size paper in 10 sheet batches because that’s about all my clothes-drying line in my darkroom can handle. In any case, it’s enough to get me printing for a few weekends, so I won’t have to do it again for a while. It’s a necessary evil in the gum printing process, because without it your gum image would dissolve off the paper in the development step.
Here’s my darkroom sink with ten sheets of sized paper hanging up to dry:

Freshly sized paper, hanging to dry

Sizing is an interesting creature – basically it’s Knox unflavored gelatin with a hardening agent added. To make it, you put a box of four 7 gram packets in 300 cc’s of cold distilled water, let the gelatin bloom for 30 minutes give or take, then mix the bloomed solution with enough water to bring it to 1 liter. Place this new solution in a water bath and heat until the gelatin solution reaches 140 degrees Farenheit. Add your hardener, mix, then you’re ready to coat. I have a bain marie pot that I use on a hotplate for heating the gelatin so it doesn’t scorch, and I can do it in my darkroom instead of on the kitchen sink.

Here’s a shot of my sizing mixing setup-

Sizing prep station

Sizing needs a hardening agent to help it stand up to repeated soakings in water. Hardeners are all something other than pleasant chemicals – typical hardeners are Chrome alum, Glyoxal and Formaldehyde (Formalin), in ascending order of toxicity. This time I decided to give the chrome alum a try because it doesn’t off-gas, has minimal effects from exposure, and requires the least safety gear for handling (latex gloves are sufficient). I had been using Glyoxal before, which requires good ventilation. My darkroom has minimal ventilation, and at this time of year, fresh air comes with a massive temperature penalty. Formalin pretty much HAS to be used outdoors, so that’s not happening either.

Here’s my Chrome Alum, 5% mix-

Chrome Alum

Isn’t it a lovely purple color? Don’t mistake it for grape Kool-Aid though…

Photography, Alternative Processes, Really Big Cameras, and other cool stuff

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