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Paint, Water, Dichromate & Photography: Gum Printing

This is a new process I’ve learned in Melanie Walker’s alternative processing class. This is a gum-print, using gum arabic mixed with either potassium or ammonium dichromate and water colors. Paper, ultraviolet light or the sun, are all collaborators in this process. I really fell in love with this process.

The model above is Alicia Ramirez.

I set out to try many things. I wanted to re-examine old photos I had taken and to re-ignite them with the gum printing process. I was very pleased to see a singular image could produce so many variations in color, tone, mood and even change the image completely. The chance of accidents, my own mistakes and ‘careless’ treatment of the paint and the process had lead to some exciting images. As someone with a background and interest in painting (especially water colors and inks… anything that flows) and motion picture.

The marriage of watercolors and photo had so many possibilities. The flow of chemicals and paint, the running water and the dance of light will always create a unique image. No matter the binary and digital may have birthed some of these images, it was the gum print that fleshed them out and gave them an identity. You can literally see the texture of the body on the paper.

In gum-printing the process and medium have morphed the original image (and intention) into something of poetry- in color and dark. No longer a crude document of the model, but now something entirely on it’s own. The photographer and model in a sense no longer are needed. A new creature has emerged. This phantom of light and paint has a profound and grounding effect on me as I move deeper in the digital realm. To hold it and smell  it and know it’s an original. Almost like a sculpture—that is to feel the images and colors, internalized like a dream, fleeting, but always in you.