Gum Bi/Dichromate

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Date initiated April 2011
Contributors Stephanie Watkins


Gum Bichromate

Also called Photo-Aquatint

Historical Facts

Invented: 1839 by Mungo Ponton; 1855 Alphonse Louis Poitevin added carbon pigment to colloids; 1858 John Pouncy used watercolor (color pigment with gum)
Historic Practioners: Heinrich Kuhn, Hans Watzek (Austria); Leonard Misonne (Belgium); Robert Demachy, C. Puyo (French); ; Rudolph Duhrkoop, Hugo Erfurth, Theodor & Oskar Hofmeister (Germany); Jose Ortiz Echague (Spain); Alfred Horsley Hinton, Alexander Keighley, Alfred Maskell, F. J. Mortimer (UK); Edward Steichen (USA)
Contemporary Practioners: Christina Z. Anderson, Steven Livick, Keith Taylor, Katherine Thayer (died, March 2011), Sam Wang (USA)

Identification Characteristics

Image layer

Gum prints are pigment and hardened gum, albumen, or proteins, therefore, the media sits on the surface of the paper. At times, the image can appear soft-edged or blurred, and the image layer grainy or granular. Sometimes offset registration can be seen in multiple layer gum prints resulting from expansion and contraction of the paper during multiple washing and re-sizing procedures.

Color

Gum prints are the color(s) of the pigment(s) chosen by the photographer, therefore, bright, bold colors can be achieved with gum printing. Multiple-layer printing of color is possible. Sometimes the blue layer in a gum print is a cyanotype.

Support

Paper type can vary, however, the fibers and surface texture of the support are visible under magnification. The print surface can look matte unless heavily sized or varnished.

Analysis

X-Ray fluorescence can analyze elements in colorants chosen and chromium. For historical samples, mercury (from a mercuric chloride fungicide) might also be detected.

Housing and Storage Considerations

Gum prints should be stored in good quality paper-board folders, as a watercolor is stored, to protect from light, dust, and handling.
An ideal temperature and humidity are 68 degrees F (20 degrees C) +/- 2 degree drift and 50% +/-5% variation over 24 hours.

Emergency Recovery

Gum prints can be frozen for later recovery if necessary. The gum is hardened during exposure and undergoes extended washing during processing. Therefore, gum prints should be able to withstand extended periods of immersion in water. Handling wet paper can cause damage such as nicks, abrasions, and tearing. Mold can develop on the prints.

Treatment

Further Reading

Historic Material

Coe, Brian and Mark Haworth-Booth. 1983. A Guide to Early Photographic Processes. London: Victoria and Albert Museum
Crawford, William. 1979. The Keepers of Light. New York: Morgan & Morgan. p. 199-212
Hendriks, Klaus B., with Brian Thurgood, Joe Iraci, Brian Lesser, Greg Hill. 1991. Fundamentals of Photograph Conservation: A Study Guide. Toronto, Ontario: Lugus Publications for the National Archives of Canada
Lavedrine, Bertrand (with Jean-Paul Gandolfo, John McElhone, and Sibylle Monod). 2007 (French version), 2009 (English Version). Photographs of the Past: Process and Preservation. Los Angeles, CA: The Getty Conservation Institute
Reilly, James M. 1986. Care and Identification of Nineteenth-Century Photographic Prints. Rochester, NY: Eastman Kodak
CAMEO: http://cameo.mfa.org
GEH Notes on Photography (Print): http://notesonphotographs.org/index.php?title=Gum_Bichromate_Print
GEH Notes on Photography (Process): http://notesonphotographs.org/index.php?title=Gum_Biochromate_Process
Robert Wulfert: Chronology: http://www.robertwulfert.com/gum_history.html#TheFatherOfBichromate

Contemporary Practice

Anderson, Christina Z. 2007. Alternative Processes Condensed. (self-published)
Barnier, John. 2000. Coming Into Focus: A Step-by-Step Guide to Alternative Photographic Printing Processes. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books
Farber, Richard 1998. Historic Photographic Processes. New York, Allworth Press p. 150-176
James, Christopher. 2008 (2nd ed.). The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes. Florence, KY: Delmar Cengage Learning Langford, Michael. 1981. The Darkroom Handbook. New York: Dorling Kindersley Limited
Scopick, David. 1991. The Gum Bichromate Book, 2nd Edition. Stoneham, MA: Focal Press
Wang, Sam. 2011. Sam Wang: Four Decades of Photographic Exploration. China: Jiangsu Arts Press
Alternative Photography (How To): http://www.alternativephotography.com/wp/processes
Analog Photography Users Group (APUG): http://www.apug.org/forums/home.php
Hamish Stewart (How It Works): http://www.gumphoto.co.uk/about_gum.html
Keith Taylor (Three Color Gum #2): http://unblinkingeye.com/Articles/3CG2/3cg2.html
Katherine Thayer (Notes on Process): http://www.pacifier.com/~kthayer/html/process.html (died 2011, may be inaccessible)
Katherine Thayer (Technical Notes): http://www.pacifier.com/~kthayer/html/tech.html (died 2011, may be inaccessible)
Sam Wang (Three Color Gum): http://unblinkingeye.com/Articles/3CG/3cg.html

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