Artist Statement

I had been taking pictures for a number of years before I saw my first gum print, and was immediately captivated by the moody, atmospheric quality of this alternative photographic process..

Gum bichromate photography was first developed around 1855 and became hugely popular during the Pictorialist period of photographic history. By 1900, however, the speed and efficiency of silver gelatin became the industry standard, and older methods of developing pictures nearly died out.

A bichromate gum print is a one-of-a-kind object, which takes nearly a week to produce. First, special heavy watercolor paper is sized and prepared. Next, a solution of dichromate, a light sensitive chemical, is mixed with gum arabic and pigments. The gum, from acacia trees, acts as a binder for the pigments and dichromate. I use natural dry pigments from France, Germany and Italy. The solution of gum, dichromate and pigments is brushed onto the watercolor paper, let dry, and then a contact negative is taped to the paper and the print is exposed under UV light. Lastly, the print is placed face down in a water bath, where the unexposed parts of the prints gradually fall away. The amount of pigment used, the ratio and strength of the dichromate, the amount of time the print is exposed, and the amount of time it is in the water are all variables that affect the final look. This whole process is then repeated after the print dries, with a different pigment. Each print has anywhere from 3 to 10 layers of pigment to achieve its final look.

Most conventional photography produces very factual images of our world. Although I love all kinds of photography, gum prints’ blend of painting and photography seems to me to allow more interaction between the viewer and the picture. There is emotionality to the gum print, like images you remember from dreams or scenes from your memory, and a mystery to the prints that allows viewers to find their own meaning in the images.