U of S | Mailing List Archive | alt-photo-process-l | for Bogdan (among others, of course)...

for Bogdan (among others, of course)...

On Thu, 8 May 2008, Bogdan Karasek wrote:

I joined this group because I thought that I could learn something about Alternative Photographic Processes and expand my creative photographic vocabulary. Guess I was wrong.
I think Bogdan you weren't wrong... And I think further that this unfortunate episode was not a total loss. (Maybe even a plus !) You don't suggest how much you already know about alt, or the extent of your "creative photographic vocabulary," but it does sound as if you're new to "the list," in which case it's quite possible -- even likely-- that you have been, or will be exposed to the dread ... um, let's call it "GPR test."* [see note below].

Certainly if one wanted to learn gum printing (and who could not !?) and asked about a book, odds are the first one named (at least a while back, now Chris James, Chris Anderson, even, I dare say Post-Factory, would probably take precedence) the advice would have been "David Scopick's 2nd edition of "The Gum Bichromate Book" (about the worst of a bad lot, but for a good while the best known, ie., favorite).

The longest running classic in the field (and HIGHLY recommended for its first half -- a loving *history* of the processes) is William Crawford's "Keepers of the Light" (tho again today Christopher James does a loving history, albeit differently). There's also (if you could BELIEVE !) the Ansel Adams Guide to Basic Techniques of Photography, Book Two by John P. Schaefer (IF YOU COULD BELIEVE Ansel Adams on "alt" !!!) and at least 4 or 6 others I can't cite from memory and can't check on my shelf because I've thrown them out... But EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE STARTS (or concludes) the GUM CHAPTER WITH THE dread "GPR Test"!

The AA Guide compounds the felony with an elaborate chapter on establishing the "ideal" mix for each color -- by pigment name -- without any awareness that pigments, even with the same "name," vary by their sources and manufacture, and that every make of watercolor has its own sources AS WELL AS its own mix of ingredients and additives !!!! (Scopick "assisted" Schaefer in this endeavor, by the way, so the "best" or "ideal" mix by color name becomes a chimera of a chimera.)

In sum, if the would-be gum printer hadn't been on the list -- or hadn't read Post-Factory -- s/he could take that "info" for gospel, as most readers did (moi aussi, trusting until, after, say 2 hours, when the light dawned, that this was a scientific, proven, essential, even foolproof professional tool).

To spare the sensibilities of those who already know this and are SICK of it (Bogdan, I'll copy those 2 pages & mail them to Canada if you like, so you won't think I'm twisting your arm to "subscribe"), I'll say here only that Scopick's method (like every other version of the great GPR test I've come across) uses no dichromate and no exposure and the process depends on both, also that what I repeatedly cite as "one little test" would have made that perfectly clear.

Now, however, I actually have something to add, which I may not have said before, at least not "on the list." Since that "GPR test" (which is actually a pigment-stain test) by its very nature stains EXTRA readily, so that those who took it as gospel would have printed gum in VERY weak, pale coats, never using a real dose of pigment for "fear of staining," that could have led to the shibboleth that "gum doesn't do strong colors", also that it "can't do fine detail." The part about no fine detail (as my old books suggest) was probably because methods of pre-shrinking and accurate re-register were catch-as-catch-can early on... The loss of detail could have been from the many weak out-of-register coats ! (Discussion of shrink, drying, re-register, etc. was intense on the list and surely helped the field at large in "perfection" of gum.)

In fact, when Photographer's Formulary began selling gum kits (and/or materials, I forget which) they used that very line..."gum can't do fine detail." I quoted it-- not in P-F, that is, Post-Factory, but on the list, referring to them as PF (Photographer's Formulary) but Peter Fredrick thought "PF" meant him -- as he also had a book about alt-processes. A tsimmis did thereby ensue, which was eventually resolved, tho not before PF resigned from the list and then (if memory serves) was persuaded to return. His book by the way, did not make that error. It's one of the earliest in what might be called "the second wave" (and I'll never let it go) -- very charming.

*Footnote: "GPR Test" stands for "Gum-pigment ratio test" -- which purports to show the maximum amount of a given pigment you can mix into your gum arabic without getting pigment stain, but is pure abra cadabra nonsense, because it doesn't include the dichromate and exposure (ie., claiming to be photography without photography) which control the result.

There, I said it, and I'm glad. (I also proved it with "one little test.")