Gum Bichromate Struggles and Successes

I devoted my winter break to making decent gum bichromate prints, and so far, after 14 hours, I’ve got mixed results. Which is no surprise, since I’m such a newbie, and this process is not for the faint-at-heart. If anything, the amount of time I’ve pumped into the project overall (70+ hours, thanks,) puts me in competition against Richard the Lionheart. Boy ain’t got nothin’ on me and my watercolors and paper. Dude was defeated by an ant a little kid.

But anyway.

Here are my “successful” prints:

Alright, so each of these prints has a cyanotype base layer. I found that that approach made it easier to line up the negatives– oh, I didn’t mention that these prints are created in layers? All of these are 5-6 layers of watercolor/gum bichromate solution. It takes a while to get a print. A long freaking while. Each color (Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow,) have their own negative, so when you print each color you have to make sure the negative lines up with the established image, else you get something like this:

It’s a gamble when you’re determining how long to expose each layer (because the amount of time you expose the print to UV light, the more pronounced the color will be,) and, when you’re a total amateur like me, you have the tendency to guess pretty wrong, and end up with images like this:

Yeah, they’re not supposed to be that blue.

I did experiment a little bit, though. For this image, I did something different. I put a top layer of cyan and exposed it too much, so my image was wayyyy too blue. I took a paintbrush and wiped away most of it, but that’s why it looks “freckly,” which I don’t mind. I think it’s kinda cool.

So there’s an update on my gum bichromate work. Trust me, there will be more updates as I try to tackle this process.

Happy Shooting!

Toxic Chemicals and Twenty Hours Later…

I’m channeling my inner Alfred Stieglitz with this one, but, it took me twenty hours to kind of get it right. I’m not sure where to begin with this one, so here have some gum bichromate prints:

Those twenty hours were worth it.

Gum Bichromate printing is a tricky art, and I’m an amateur of amateurs, but my novice-ness created these dreamy, atmospheric prints, and I’m down with that. I did the tulle head photo shoot with gum bichromate printing in mind, and the process did not disappoint, even if it did take me over twenty hours and tons of failed prints.

To make these, you need potassium dichromate (some gum printers use a different chemical, but I don’t know so whatever,) gum arabic, and water color pigment, preferably from a tube. If you’re interested in making these, check out this site for a great tutorial, but be warned, each of these prints took me five hours each to complete.

There are many more of these to come, and I’m looking forward to seeing the one-of-a-kind prints yielded by this temperamental process.

Happy Shooting!

P.S.- here’s the Alfred Stieglitz gum bichromate print I kind of sort of mentioned: