Somewhat OT: Gum story

From: Katharine Thayer ^lt;>
Date: 03/28/05-04:45:42 AM Z
Message-id: <>

I can't help with the question about gum combined with other processes,
since I print gum and only gum, but the mention of cyanotype and gum
makes me think of a story, and since it's been slow lately, maybe I
could be indulged in a story, especially since it is in fact a story
about gum printing.

Sometimes in the afternoons I go over to a coffeeshop in a fishing town
near where I live, to drink tea and do jigsaw puzzles with the fellows
who hang out there on stormy days. They had seen and been interested in
my pinhole cameras, and I had told them about my printing process, so
one day last year I brought two or three random test prints so they
could see what I was talking about, since it's kind of hard to grasp the
idea of a gum print from a verbal description if you've never seen one.

So I showed them these little test prints (one of which was a contact
print from a 4x5 negative, printed in a very deep blue-black) and then
pushed the prints aside to the corner of the table and we worked on the
puzzle. A stranger came into the coffeeshop; walking past our table,
he noticed the gum prints, pointed to the deep blue-black one, and
said, "I know what THAT is." I looked up, surprised that there would be
anyone in these parts who would know a gum print right off the bat. He
said, "THAT, is a cyanotype."

It turned out that he had just finished a degree in photography at a
college somewhere in the southwest and had taken one nonsilver class,
and by golly he could recognize a cyanotype when he saw one. That right
there was a cyanotype and that's all there was to it. I laughed and
said, "Well, I've never made a cyanotype in my life, but I've printed a
heck of a lot of gum, and that's a gum print." He shook his head. "Gum
doesn't print that dark, and it can't print that level of detail." He
was obviously a young man who knows what he knows, and knows it deeply
and well.

"Nevertheless, it's a gum print," said I.

He pulled up a chair and engaged in general conversation with the group,
but every now and then he looked over at the print and said under his
breath, "That's a gum print? That's not a gum print!"

Finally he apparently decided to test me by asking casually, "Of course
you do the standard four-bath development method for gum, then?" I
said, "The 'standard four-bath development method'? What in the heck is

He laughed triumphant, apparently satisfied that he had caught me
revealing my ignorance about gum printing, since I didn't know, as he
was taught in his non-silver class, that the "four-bath development
method" is "standard" in gum printing. I don't know why he thought I
would try to pass off a cyanotype as a gum print, but maybe it was
easier for him to believe that's what I was doing than to have to
consider that anything he was taught about gum printing may have been
incorrect or incomplete. True story, that says something about the
power of wrong information.

Giovanni Di Mase wrote:
> Hi Katharine,
> I got a question for you or any list member.
> Working the combination of gum bichromate and cyano it is an interesting and
> exciting work that can go from full color to any other color option.
> What has been your experience with gum and Van Dyke?
> Why Van Dyke? because has silver on it with further options.
> Anybody has anything to show me?
> thanks,
> Giovanni
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Katharine Thayer" <>
> To: <>
> Sent: Friday, March 25, 2005 4:09 AM
> Subject: Gum online
> > Too tired to do anything constructive this morning, I amused myself by
> > googling "gum bichromate." I think the last time I did this was about
> > three years ago, before I started building my own site. There wasn't
> > much out there then, and it was mostly the same sites that had been
> > there when I first came online in 1998.
> >
> > The difference between three years ago and now is amazing. There are so
> > many people doing beautiful and interesting work in gum. I was saving
> > some of my favorite URLs to recommend, but then I realized what a silly
> > occupation that is. Just google gum bichromate and pick out your own
> > favorites.
> >
> > There's a few clunkers as far as information, like the statement that
> > one might replace the recommended potassium dichromate with ammonium
> > dichromate, which is "faster but doesn't give as long a tonal scale as
> > potassium dichromate" an obvious mistatement of fact, but there's
> > misinformation wherever you look, including on this list.
> >
> > In fact I was thinking about the editable encyclopedia Gordon pointed to
> > with the empty page on gum, and got to imagining all the gum experts
> > editing each other's instructions and excising portions of each other's
> > text that they consider incorrect. It made me laugh, to think of it.
> > Katharine
> >
Received on Mon Mar 28 12:41:34 2005

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