Re: ironing gum prints and other musings
On Thu, 1 May 2008, Christina Z. Anderson wrote: CUT
Chris, my experience has varied -- sometimes exactly as you describe, but some surprises. Perhaps the difference was that my class was required (despite my strongest protestations), not an elective. Some students -- most notably among them SooKang -- took immediately to gum, turning out prints at the level of their best right off the bat.
But also those surprises. My most vivid memory of one such was the last day of class one year, when one of the guys (the guys didn't usually take to gum so happily -- they tended to prefer the more strictly "photographic" processes, tho I think, given their druthers they'd have preferred to stay in their darkrooms making C-prints), but as I was saying, this fellow was sitting cross-legged on top of the lab counter, looking with some pleasure at his gum prints which had just been on the wall for a crit... talking as much to himself I think as to the group at large. I can still hear him almost 20 years later, saying in a tone of
wonder: "I didn't want to do it, and I didn't want to do it... but then I did it... and... I really *liked it*."
That may have been at least in part because he was smart and/or lucky enough that his prints were finally pretty good. Still, I think that even the ones who didn't like it at all at all, IF they turned out say just a couple of good -- or decent -- prints, either from talent, teaching, luck or maybe just watching and copying another student, WOULD like it: The feeling of achieving something difficult is VERY satisfying.
Incidentally, Chris, we may both be thinking of the same fellow who
shrank the paper with a hair dryer until it was the right size. I recall an article in one of the photo magazines that described it... just reading about it made me want to do everything left-handed and blind-folded.
Incidentally #2 -- who was it said they pasted the paper to plexi with 10% gelatin... was that you Chris? I did that according to some old literature, which said to put it on sanded shellacked sheets of metal (I had some plexi but it wasn't rigid enough... maybe too thin.) I found that to make the paper stay on and stay flat (if I recall I put this in one of the Post-Factory's) required a LOT of gelatin-- and then a separate operation to get it off the back, which I solved by putting a sheet of buckram ("gum buckramate") between the paper and the metal -- you could just grab an edge and pull. Maybe if I'd stuck with it I'd have prevailed, but by that time my shrinking and registering technique seemed to improve enough to just do it loose (or maybe my eyesight deteriorated enough so it didn't bother me)...
However, in my experience, if you coat your paper with the pigment/gum/dichromate mix when it's too wet, it will sink so far into the paper that it will never never never ever clear... tho maybe that fellow wasn't actually making prints, just shrinking the paper (?).
I also have seen within that period of time students who become equal enough to me in technique. I mean, in less than 5 weeks! Like maybe 3! My guess, again, is it is in the personality of the worker and not some special secrets or teaching ability on my part. My guess is that the type of person who gravitates toward gum is able to creatively troubleshoot instantly, doesn't expect to rush through a gum print, is willing to give it that one extra coat/day of work, and is willing to try new weird things without feeling the gum print is sacrosanct. Etc. etc. Not to mention the enjoyment of the process (BTW when I am doing a gum print I do 2 versions at once--one to get perfect and one to mess with).