Gum Bichromate process

I have ordered the chemicals to start working with this photographic process.  It is a so called ‘alternative’ process dating from the late 19th century using gum arabic and potassium dichromate, contact printed using a full scale negative.  I want to use the process because of its flexibility, the possibility of 3 or more colour prints with the right support, or combining negatives.  The aesthetic effects are smoky and often have a charcoal effect, as seen in the work of Robert Demarchy (1859–1936) – who has been described as a french pictoralist because of his painterly use of the technique – deliberately blurring the borders of drawing and photography.

There is a danger in being drawn into the pictoralism suggested by the aesthetic or the ‘neo-pictoralism’ created by the ubiquitous antique filters that proliferate on image editing software. This ‘one click instant nostalgia’ could lead to the images being misinterpreted.  The opportunity to explore different supports (wood, board etc) with this technique will perhaps balance this danger

Other photographers drawn to the process were British american photographer  Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882-1966) – especially work collected in the George Eastman archive and Edward Steichen (1879-1973), as seen in his atmospheric shot of Rodin’s sculpture of Balzac or untitled or the Big White Cloud of 1903/4  (Technically this is a carbon print, which is a similar process originally using carbon black pigment or India ink.)

Alfred Stieglitz used the Gum Bichromate process in this image of smoke and steam – New York Central Yard (1910) and his protege Gertrude Kasebier (1852 -1934) was also attracted to it,  her images were often fully pictorial and  with great pathos exaggerated by the soft tones of the gum bichromate process.

Contemporary artists include:

Ernestine Rubin – extraordinary range of techniques in alternative processes to create diverse images on a range of supports

Keith Geling – pictures of industrial structures and grain silos have the strongest link

Christopher James – teacher, writer and guru of alternative processes.

My pinterest board on Gum Bichromate practitioners.

(Coburn’s portfolio on Guardian Photography – links to vortices movement and other pioneers of different image construction systems in the early modernist movement)

Self Publish Be Happy

The self publish movement – is an answer to the question ‘How to distribute photography and publish beyond a regulated art world.’ Self Publish Be Happy is a five year old website and blog that documents the self published artist book.  A sample of books, a manual and a manifesto is gathered in a new book published by author artist and founder Bruno Ceschel under the same name.

Self Publication is: ‘…a tradition based on resistance and defiance – to power, ideology, the status quo, and the market.  Political and religious pamphlets, erotic novels, futurist manifestos, dadist journals, punk and skate zines: these publications have not only disseminated ideas via alternative channels, but also created a social space around them.  Their circulation has been an agent of aggregation, of social interaction and exchange.’  – Bruno Ceschel (2015)

Fascinating collections of artists in book and on website.

James Hoff – To Any Reader, Hide Awhile (Wait), the Curtain Remembers a Useless Landscape, VI, VII, 2015 (FROM SPBH website)

Contact sheets

The unedited low resolution scans of the the November day shoot.  The film needed a lot of cleaning, there are still some issues with the negatives. The majority of the results are good.  A few minor edits in Lightroom reveal that they can be printed with success, if that is the next way forward…..

First Film – establishment shots and some close ups


Second film – close ups from south


Third film – shot in 400 – a traverse along the valley from eastern side, but looking west and increasingly North – new locations, including graveyard

contact (Novdayfilm400)

Final film – shot at dusk from western side and also from North after nightfall.


Equivalents (clouds and smoke 1)

Alfred Steiglitz’s Equivalents are described as the first and most influential  photographs with genuine abstraction as the sole aim.

Equivalent, 1926 Alfred Stieglitz (MetMA – NYC)

The equivalents were designed by Stieglitz:

“to hold a moment, how to record something so completely, that all who see [the picture of it] will relive an equivalent of what has been expressed.”

Minor White, American photographer, teacher and writer defined this as a set of principles:

‘At one level, the graphic level, the word “Equivalence” pertains to the photograph itself, the visible foundations of any potential visual experience with the photograph itself…….At the next level the word “Equivalence” relates to what goes on in the viewer’s mind as he looks at a photograph that arouses in him a special sense of correspondence to something that he knows about himself. At a third level the word “Equivalence” refers to the inner experience a person has while he is remembering his mental image after the photograph in question is not in sight. The remembered image also pertains to Equivalence only when a certain feeling of correspondence is present.’ 

(Equivalence: The Perennial Trend – Minor White, PSA Journal, Vol. 29, No. 7, pp. 17-21, 1963)
(Images from: The Phillips Collection website)

Steiglitz chose to make his Equivalents over a long period of time, selecting different groups in different selections to display in different orders and even orientations, but always presented as a series. They are also a triumph of technique, demonstrating Steilitz’s determination to overcome the limitations of early film to photograph what he had initially described as unphotographable.  Perhaps even more significant was Stieglitz’s understanding that the photograph he presented would now start to be seen as beyond depiction or pure representation.

…….some “Pictorial photographers” when they came to the exhibition seemed totally blind to the cloud pictures. My photographs look like photographs—and in their eyes they therefore can’t be art. As if they had the slightest idea of art or photography— or any idea of life. My aim is increasingly to make my photographs look as much like photographs that unless one has eyes and sees, they won’t be seen—and still everyone will never forget them having once looked at them. I wonder if that is clear.

(How I Came to Photograph Clouds -Alfred Steiglitz, The Amateur Photographer & Photography, Vol. 56, No. 1819, p. 255, 1923)


Distressing and Damaging negatives (3)

Further experiments in damaging negatives (continuing from previous) – this time with a candle. I was looking for smoke damage, but the result was melting and warping, leading to a break in the negative repaired by sellotape.


The resulting scans were interesting for different reasons, the smoke heat damage on a blank negative was very neutral, while the bleach damage was quite graphic – a similar effect as with the earlier experiments with bleach on photographic paper.

The damage to a negative with an image on produced a warp that is hard to describe, clearly damaged but not clear how it has happened when presented as an image.