Eastman House gum prints
Good morning all,
I spent a couple days this week and last going through the gum prints in the archives here with a very accomodating man, Joe Struble. Poor Joe, I was a glutton to see all and every gum they might have.
I thought I would share some ideas on gum technique I found effective, from looking at this work. I already told about Ives' minute half tone screen that was really unique.
These are only some of the photographers I was able to look at:
Kuhn--printed dark on dark, and two colors I don't like--a really vivid orange, and a very prominent green. I mean, duotone would've cut it a bit...
Ravell--very contemporary looking travelogue of Mexico
Goldensky--drama boy, beautiful portraits
Livick's work was large--16x20, some garishly colored in violet and viridian combinations, but he has an emotion about his work I really love. One pic, for instance, was selectively gum colored red on the lips, and then through the development process the color smeared and bled all over. Imperfection was effective. Another of a little girl holding two dolls, head cut off at edge of print. His prints that I saw were coated within the border of the neg so the edges were soft instead of sharp (not diffused soft, but uneven borders). His prints made me want to buy a large vacuum frame. I was impressed by his work.
I was most impressed by Paul Anderson's work (Judy, this is for you). I was surprised I would feel that way. I have seen reproductions in magazines of his work and thought they looked crummy but in person they are dark, moody, evocative, and juicily glossy. I now understand why people trusted his gum advice--the proof was in the pudding so to speak. I notice in a number of them details were supressed--in other words, the face was somewhat not there. Now, I know that gum will print every teeny detail you could possibly want, including those microbanding lines that happen when you don't clean your print heads, so I can't imagine this wasn't deliberate. And it was really beautiful. Unless the negative were so blown out in the highlights he could not get detail to ever print there...but I think not.
Either he or another did a really neat idea--it was a gum print in duotone--first layer pale brown fully printed, second and subsequent black, and then it looked like either white chalk was added on top in the highlight areas or even perhaps a POSITIVE was printed in white on top of the image. In fact, there was another print in someone's pile (my notes are upstairs in the hotel room and grouchy is still sleeping, but in his behalf he has accomodated me all week, even to coming in the library all day with me) that a total layer of pale gray or white was printed overtop the entire image with no negative, essentially veiling the entire image in pale color...another technique to try. I could tell this was what was done because in parts the white was missing, and also there was no detail present in the white--a flat layer.
I was able to see this paper, or at least I think it is the paper the old lit talks about--pyramidal grain paper. Very textured. One was extremely textured, looked like it had little pyramids of Giza all over the surface. And then, of course, the Michallet paper that had very distinct lines throughout it that in my opinion are distracting. You can see this in Kasebier's prints, among others.
Speaking of paper, it seemed in vogue to deckle the gum print to the very edge of the printing, so no white paper showed. And then that seemed to be mounted onto a backing board. Sometimes a black pinline was drawn in around.
I was not as impressed by Kasebier's gums, which also surprised me. She went so far into the charcoal drawing effect, but her shadows were blocked up so much that cows and people's clothes looked flat and not volumized like a charcoal drawing would.
What seeing all the work made me realize is that I want to go back to print monochrome gum from BW negs again....most of the work was soft focus, DARK DARK, moody, evocative, of course the reigning aesthetic of the time. And, of course, no tricolor to speak of, (except one of Livick's, Ives, and manufactured color in Ravell's by painting with watercolor) due to the need to manufacture 3 separation negs in the darkroom. How easy we have it.
Hope this spurs on a new gum idea or two for you all this coming month or year.