gum printers: what's your favorite black pigment?

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by timeUnit, Jul 13, 2007.

  1. timeUnit

    timeUnit Member

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    Hi!

    When I did my first gum prints I noticed a BIG difference in the general appearance and "dmax" when using readymade black colors like Windsor&Newton compared to mixing my own with pigment and gum arabic solution.

    Using the W&N tube color gave a less than attractive sheen to the final print, but using pure pigment in gum gave a deep and quite matt surface.

    The pigment we used was called "kimrök" by our teacher, the translation being "vine black", or possibly "blue black". The W&N color (or is it paint?) was Lamp Black.

    Now I'm shopping for my own pigments and there is so much to choose from! Ivory black, mars black, vine black... My head is spinning!

    I found the handprint site (wonderful site!) and did a bit of research. It seems vine black is not a "better black" than Mars black for instance, but rather a "historic" black.

    What (black) pigments are you gum printers out there using?

    Does Mars black work with gum printing?

    Thanks!

    Henning
     
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  2. Lukas Werth

    Lukas Werth Member

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    What is the "handprint site"? Can you give the link?

    "Kremer Pigmente" (link on my website) is a very good place for buying pigments.

    I so far used lamp black, ivory black, bone black, and a rare pigment from Kremer called "spinell black". The latter, they say, is the blackest of all, but, though it worked very well with casein (I never tried this one with gum), other pigments seem as good to me.

    Lamp black is sometimes thought to be prone to staining, but this seems to depend also on the quality/the batch. I am currently using a tube from Schmincke, works very well.

    Bone black from Kremer is a warmish black in single gum which is why I like it.

    I can, however, not subscribe to the thesis that self-mixed pigments are better than those in tubes. Both can be excellent, and those in tubes tend to be finer ground/distributed.

    Some time ago, I tried some cadmium colours from Kremer, and they wouldn't clear! I have no idea why, but when I used cadmium yellows from tubes, they worked perfectly on the same paper.

    By the way, if you do multiple gum in different colours, it is also a good idea with some colours to use a dark blue (thalo blue is a favourite of mine) for the last layer to emphasize the shadows.
     
  3. timeUnit

    timeUnit Member

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    Hi Lukas!

    Here's the handprint site. Lots (really LOTS) of info on pigments.

    http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/water.html

    I'm sorry, I didn't mean that ALL tubed colors are less good than self-mixed. I just meant that the particular black color was not so good, I used other colors from tubes that were fine.

    Thanks for the tip on the Kremer site, will check it out.

    Anyone who knows if Iron based black (Mars black) works with gum bichromate?
     
  4. photomc

    photomc Member

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    All blacks are not equal..try some Ivory Black
     
  5. Chazzy

    Chazzy Member

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    I'll be very interested to hear what Winsor and Newton blacks are recommended, since they are easy to get here in the United States.
     
  6. scootermm

    scootermm Subscriber

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    Windsor & Newton Ivory Black.
    I was suggested that this is the only black to use for gum printing as its the only one that wont stain. Yet still I am thick headed and tried out mars black and lamp black and, as you would guess, stained badly.

    So ... such was suggested to me, stick with ivory black (W&N)
     
  7. Katharine Thayer

    Katharine Thayer Member

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    Like photomc, my favorite black is ivory black; I like its transparency and warm tone. It can print quite black, or if the pigment/gum ratio is cut back a bit, a rich dark brown; see example of the dark brown:

    http://www.pacifier.com/~kthayer/html/kids.html

    The iron black pigment you're asking about, PBk11 (marketed by W&N as "mars black" and by Daniel Smith as "lunar black") works fine for gum, but it's not my first choice for black; in fact I've had a tube of the Daniel Smith version for years but never used it again after trying it out once. There's nothing "wrong" with it; I just prefer the warmer tone of the ivory black. If you're interested, I'll try to print the Mars black later today and post a sample.

    I'm somewhat mystified at the unattractive sheen reported with lamp black tube paint; I can't say I've seen anything like that. I don't use lamp black as a rule because I don't care for its opacity, but this is purely a subjective issue and has nothing to do with whether the pigment "works" or not. It works fine as long as it's used judiciously; this is one of those pigments where a little goes a long way.

    You had a good teacher; I admire her work.
     
  8. timeUnit

    timeUnit Member

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    Katharine,

    I don't know either why the sheen "happened". It might be that we used a "student" tube, i.e. the Cotman brand from W&N. But I'm not sure about that. It's more than a year ago, it might have been the Artists' brand.

    I might try the Mars black, as I'm looking for a cooler black.

    And yes, Chia is without a doubt a great printer. I'd say she's the best in Sweden. Seeing her prints in real life is wonderful. I'm very fortunate to have learned from her, and it's great to be able to get back to her and ask things when I've gotten into the printing again.
     
  9. Katharine Thayer

    Katharine Thayer Member

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    PBk11 Sample

    As promised, here's a rough print made with iron black, (PBk 11, ferosoferic oxide; here as Daniel Smith "lunar black"). As you can see, it makes very neutral greys; it seems on the dull side to me, but that's just me. It's not a pigment I use a lot so I'm not entirely sure it's as saturated as it could be, although in the mix, it looked very saturated black, and I used more paint than I would need with either lamp black or ivory black to get a completely saturated mix.
     

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  10. timeUnit

    timeUnit Member

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    Maybe a bit OT...

    Here's a print I did with Chia. It's four colors: black, yellow, cyan, black+magenta. The black pigment was Chia's "kimrök", or vine black.
     

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  11. Katharine Thayer

    Katharine Thayer Member

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    Yes, that's definitely a carbon black, and a very high-contrast mix for sure. Just goes to show it really helps to see what a person is talking about, as I had assumed you were talking about a black for a one-coat gum, where you would want more of a range of tones. I'm pretty sure you couldn't get that black a black with this PBK 11, although you certainly could with lamp black. In watercolor paint, the Old Holland "vine black" is the only paint that's manufactured in the charcoal pigment PBk 8, which is sometimes called "vine black" but with powdered pigment you may have more choices in that pigment. But PBk 8 is semitransparent; the black in your picture looks quite opaque. Lamp black, also sometimes called "blue black" is very opaque and widely available in both paint and powder and is probably your best choice to replicate that look, unless you can find out where Chia gets the "kimrok."
    kt
     
  12. Katharine Thayer

    Katharine Thayer Member

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    I got curious to see how much darker I could print the PBk11 if I was willing to give up gradation of tone, but ran into problems. The Winsor & Newton "mars black" may work better, but I found that the tendency of the Daniel Smith paint to granulate and reticulate due to the magnetic properties of the iron particles (described on handprint) made it print unpredictably at stronger concentrations, although one might like to exploit this effect for more "artistic" efforts. So I don't think I would recommend the Daniel Smith "lunar black" for a high-contrast black, although it seems to work fine in a more normal-contrast mix as shown earlier. I believe this may be the first pigment I've ever run across that I would say is problematic for gum printing.
     

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  13. timeUnit

    timeUnit Member

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    Actually, I had some problems with flaking using the "kimrök" on another print. I think it was a mixture of kimrök and a cyan pigment that flaked a bit. In the end I think it added to the print, but maybe the cyan (or blue) was iron based and caused problems?

    I just took a second look at all the prints I made with Chia and it's very very obvious that the kimrök pigment is superior to the lamp black we were using at the time. The difference is staggering. I must get back to Chia and ask her what tube paint it was, and steer clear of it! :smile:

    Thanks Katharine for all the trouble you went through to clear things up for me!
     
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  15. Katharine Thayer

    Katharine Thayer Member

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    Flaking v "reticulation"

    This is an interesting question, because I've never seen this with Prussian blue, an iron blue that I'm very fond of and use a lot, and because according to handprint it's only the Daniel Smith iron oxide black that evinces this reticulation thing; the Winsor & Newton version of the pigment is said to be relatively free of it. And the earth pigments, which are mostly iron oxides of one sort or another, don't do this. So why would just this one iron pigment, in this one formulation, be so subject to this effect? Beats me.

    But I'd make a clear distinction between flaking and the reticulation I'm talking about; they're not the same thing. In experimenting with trying to find a high-contrast mix of the "lunar black," that would work well, I encountered both phenomena. I'm afraid the jpeg I posted before didn't show the reticulation very well, so I've posted another attachment below that shows a 1-inch section of the same reticulated print, enlarged, next to a 1-inch section of a flaked print, enlarged to the same degree, so you can see how different they are. When a gum layer flakes, it first forms blisters, then pulls off the support, then breaks into pieces. In this reticulation thing, the layer stays on the surface but becomes sort of crystallized and rearranged.

    Flaking is a potential problem any time you start really loading the gum up with pigment,, even when one extends the exposure sufficiently to expose completely through the thick layer, (as was true of the example shown here) and this is true with any pigment. Any time there's so much pigment in the gum that it feels more like brushing on a printing ink than brushing on a usual gum layer, there's the potential for flaking.

    I always enjoy talking about gum issues with other gum printers.
     

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  16. Chazzy

    Chazzy Member

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    Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Demachy and Puyo manage to create finished gum prints with one application of the gum/pigment mixture? If so, they must have had a lot of pigment in the mixture. How did they avoid the flaking?
     
  17. timeUnit

    timeUnit Member

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    Katharine,

    the issue I had was definetely flaking, and not reticulation. But again, it was over a year ago I made the prints, and I have not started doing it again yet. I don't know if the blue/cyan pigment used at the time was iron based.

    All my gum prints (it's only five so far!) are three or more layers. The flaking print was given two more prints with kimrök, and the flaking was largely covered, leaving only a faint hint.

    Thanks again for your time!
     
  18. Katharine Thayer

    Katharine Thayer Member

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    You're not wrong about Demachy and Puyo making one-coat gums, but the assumption that they must have used a great deal of pigment to make them doesn't necessariily follow. I don't know that I've ever seen any of Puyo's gums, even in reproduction, but Demachy's one-coat gums don't appear to be very heavily pigmented at all; their tonal scale doesn't indicate to me a pigment load where flaking would be likely to occur.

    The kind of pigment load that will print the deepest most opaque blacks such as timeUnit's ships, won't print more than a few tones (that's why I referred to it as a "high-contrast mix") so if you used it for a one-coat, it would be a very posterized, graphic kind of print. This kind of mix is most often used as it was used in that print, as the K layer of a CMYK print, or to lay in the deepest shadows in a multiple print that spans a full tonal scale. It's not the kind of pigment load you'd use for a one-coat gum where you wanted to express the widest possible tonal range in one coat; you'd use a less concentrated pigment mix for that. For example, the one-coat work print I did yesterday to demonstrate how PBk11 looks in a gum print, was made with a mix that looked solid black in the mix, but printed a fairly normal range of tones. (Not a very long tonal scale, but about as much as gum can manage in one coat). But to add a deep black to the print, you'd need a separate printing with a heavier pigment load. It's the tradeoff you always have with gum; you can have drama or subtlety in any one gum printing, but never both. Demachy tended to go more for subtlety.

    It's this kind of heavier, high-contrast pigment mix that has the potential of flaking. I was experimenting with heavy loads like this yesterday when I was checking out a high-contrast mix for the lunar black; about half of my test prints flaked and half didn't, and whether they did or didn't wasn't discernably related either to the amount of pigment or the amount of exposure, and that's been my experience with printing with these heavier mixes. Sometimes you get lucky; sometimes you don't. But these mixes were so stiff it was like like trying to spread printing ink with a brush; most gum printers aren't ever going to try to print a mix that heavy.

    I hope that somewhat answers the question,
    kt
     
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  19. Katharine Thayer

    Katharine Thayer Member

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    Correction re Demachy

    I got to wondering if I was misremembering and inadvertently misrepresenting Demachy, so went looking for what reproductions I have on hand. I can't find my little Taschen book of his work, but I looked at what there is of his in the big book of reproductions from Camera Work, as well as his published instructions for his method. In my earlier remarks, I was thinking of such things as Study in Red, which has nice tonal subtlety within a not very wide tonal range, in other words the usual one-coat gum tonality.

    But I was forgetting a lot of work he did that wasn't much different from other gum work of the time: heavily pigmented, coarse and lacking in tonal range; essentially a dark tone with a few lighter tones introduced by forced development. Both types of print seem to illustrate my point about pigmentation and tonal range: less pigment=more tones; more pigment=fewer tones.

    As for how he dealt with the danger of flaking, he dealt with it by making sure his mixes were liquid enough to spread out thinly (in other words, not overly pigmented). "Most failures in coating are due to an exaggerated thickness" he wrote. He adds, correctly IME, that some pigments require a higher pigment/gum ratio to get the same depth of color than others, and recommends adding more dichromate to those mixes to thin them to a good brushing consistency. "It follows, therefore, that more bichromate has to be added to a sepia mixture to dilute it to proper fluidity than would be required for lampblack, because the smaller bulk required of the latter gives a much thinner consistency." His black of choice appears to have been lamp black, which as he says, requires little pigment to produce a solid black. This iron black I've been working with for the purpose of this thread, as I mentioned earlier, requires a lot more pigment to get the same solid black as one can achieve with a lesser amount of lamp black, and that's why I've been struggling with these very stiff mixes. His recommendation to add more dichromate than usual to dilute a heavily pigmented mix is interesting, because (1) adding liquid would dilute the saturation of the pigment, somewhat defeating the purpose, one would think, and (2) because adding more dichromate would decrease the contrast, which would be a good thing, working against the tendency of heavy pigment mixtures to produce very high contrast prints. It might be worth a try, if anyone is really interested in using this black. My recommendation would be to forget it and stick with lamp black, if you want a neutral black, or ivory black if you want a warm black. I'm fascinated with this black of Chia's; it sounds like a great black, whatever it is.

    As for Puyo, if "Against the Light" is a one-coat gum print, that's one heckuva gum print. (Camera Work doesn't identify the process used to make the original prints, only the printing method used for the reproduction).
     
  20. timeUnit

    timeUnit Member

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    Regarding Chia's black: I'm quite sure she stressed the use of a pigment, not a tube paint, to get the black she preferred. She also mentioned what you found, sometimes it flakes, sometimes it doesn't. It's not directly related to the amount of pigment you put in your gum mix.

    And I'm quite sure the pigment is of carbon, as you mention.

    I will contact her and get some more info on the specific pigment she's using. Chances are quite big though that the maker/brand of that particular pigment is not available anymore. But there might be a subsitute somewhere! :smile:
     
  21. Chazzy

    Chazzy Member

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    Katharine, thanks for all the information. By the way, I followed the link to your gum bichromate page and it's great.
     
  22. Katharine Thayer

    Katharine Thayer Member

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    You're most welcome, and thanks.
     
  23. Lukas Werth

    Lukas Werth Member

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    I think I mentioned I was once able to inspect prints of Demachy in the original, and though this is several years back, I vividly remember their subtle tonality. On the back of one print, I recall, a curator had noted that Demachy here was still learning, as there were some blown-out highlights and empty shadows.
    I really don't want to endulge in ancestor-worship, but I think it would be very worthwhile to trace the negativs and compare them with the prints in order to learn more about Demachy's printing methods. I also cannot help thinking that his paper, for instance, must have been quite different from today's quality, and I recall him writing somewhere that gelatine sizing is detrimental to gum - a remark I find mystifying.
    I think Katharine is right in her suggestion that he used lamp black for his black pictures, probably mixed with some other pigments to vary tonality.
    I attach an effort of mine of a single-run gum print in, if I am not very mistaken, bone-black hwich I just scanned in. I hope densities may be more or less recognized.
     

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  24. z-man

    z-man Member

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    re paper and other materials 100yrs ago

    lukas-

    you have raised what i believe are most important points

    my own readings of 1850's era english language photo publications have convinced me that very thoro reading, and examination of original prints, are essential

    fox-talbot's waxed paper neg method was derailed when latest batch of paper from his paper suppier, i think 'turkey mill paper manufactury'?, would not work-the supplyer claimed no change in process but talbot could no longer use the paper that was the only support that he had been successful with

    i think that all the noise around legal issues drowned out what my readings have convinced me was the real reason for the failure of his method, the paper---probably the size---had changed in a way so that it became unsuitable for the methods talbot had developed

    the manufacture of gelatine in the 1800's was a very varied industry-some used fresh hoofs and hides, some used dried, some added this by the handful, some added that in measured amounts, and so on and so on

    that an individual using a particular gelatine or a particular paper sized with gelatine could report that HIS experience was that gelatine was nogood under gum--which gum made which way by who for what purpose before he got it?--does not surprise me even tho my own experience is that, in most cases, gum loves gelatine

    "gum arabic" was more important than any other substance to the brits when they controled modern day senegal-it was the most neccessary ingrediant in the textile printing industry-

    the caravans to the "interior" were sent for the pupose of obtaining the highest grade of raw gum-the slaves that were also brought back with the gum were of much less importance to the brit traders/colonialists/conquerors-they were of less value and the gum took preference in the loading of the ships

    i have read the accounts written in english by the captured slaves that came to the states thru this route and also the translations from the arabic into english of those who only wrote in that language, along with the accounts of the brit traders so i am comfident of my knowledge of the brit sourcing and use of gum arabic in the 1700's

    concerning the paper-

    1800's brit writings talk about 'german'papers and 'french papers' both as prepared albumin paper and/or paper intended for other use-watercolor of course-and writing etc
    they were each completely different from each other but consistent in country of origen-- and the use of any went in and out of fashion

    re the pigment issues when added to gum--

    what is the binder and what are the fillers that each manufacturer uses? gum arabic is listed many times by those who will tell you what the ingredants of the tube or cake are

    casien is also used

    i myself find that if i mix a pigment that has gumarabic as the binder with gum arabic emulsion my results are more predictable and consistant

    i use casien binder pigments with casien for the same reason

    i use acrylic binder pigments with synthetic 'gum' emulsions

    if you read the photo publications of the times concerning not only the specific process you are using but also other processes, you can become aware of many pertanent facts that will be of great use and application

    vaya con dios
     
  25. Katharine Thayer

    Katharine Thayer Member

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    Demachy and PBk11

    Hi gum printers,
    While I was doing something else in the darkroom yesterday, I tried out Demachy's instruction to use as much dichromate as was required in each case to make a mix that was liquid enough to brush out to a thin layer; in other words to use extra dichromate in the case of a heavily pigmented, stiff mix, in order to make it easily brushable.

    Since I was doing this between other things, I wasn't paying as much attention as I might, and thoughtlessly exposed the increased dichromate mix (2:1, dichromate:gum/pigment) for the same amount of time (3 minutes) as I had been exposing the same pigment/gum mix used 1:1 with dichromate (27% ammonium dichromate). It was so overexposed that after an hour in the water, even the lightest highlights hadn't begun to emerge; the print was just a black rectangle at that point. I blasted the print with water from a high-pressure faucet, first cool water, then hot water, and also flooded the gum with ammonia, in order to soften it and allow the image to emerge. But as I was doing this, I was thinking that this probably wasn't really so different from Demachy's method. His exposures would have ensured a rather hard layer (10 minutes in direct summer sun) even using 10% potassium dichromate, and then he often employed a forced development, with brushes or with running water.

    Anyhow, by using twice as much dichromate as usual, by grossly overexposing, and by forcing development, I was able to force a range of tones from a pigment mix that by my usual method would make a very high-contrast print. But the quality of the tones is very gritty and the tones aren't like continuous tone; it's not a path I would choose as a rule for one-coat gums. But someone who liked the gritty quality might want to exploit this.

    The "hot spots" near the nose and on the forehead are where I held the print under the blast of water too long and blasted the gum clean off the paper.

    I want to say more about Demachy, but will do that in a separate post.
     

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  26. Katharine Thayer

    Katharine Thayer Member

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    Lukas, you have the advantage of me in having seen Demachy's prints in person; I can only go by the reproductions I have at hand (in my bookcase and on the web), by remarks of curators and of critics both at the time and more recently, and by the publication "Photo-Aquatint, or the Gum-Bichromate Process" a detailed explanation of the process and description of his methods, written with Alfred Maskell, for the impressions I draw of his work.

    Commentators, both past and present, are unanimous in their judgment that he often engaged in heavy retouching of the negative (by painting out areas that he deemed distracting and emphasizing other areas) as well as heavy post-exposure manipulation, and his own writing certainly confirms that impression. He held the idea that a straight photographic print was just a mechanical reproduction of reality, therefore not "art" and in order to make a photograph a work of art, one needed to employ considerable handwork. "Meddling with a gum print may or not add the vital spark; without the meddling, there can be no spark," he wrote. Crawford's summary of Demachy's work: "Demachy was most interested in the painterly and gestural qualities the [gum] process made possible. His prints often made a considerable show of brush strokes, and the tonal scale, instead of having a continuous progression of tones, often jumps in patches from light to dark." Several commentators' descriptions mention his adding white pastel to bring out highlghts in the print.

    As I mentioned the other day, I have seen reproductions of some prints that have a subtlety of tone, such as the one of the back of the girl's head done in Venetian red that everyone knows (also a couple of nudes with very delicate tonality) but these don't seem remarkable to me as one-coat gums. Nice, but hardly beyond the reach of any competent modern worker who understands that subtlety of tonality is largely a function of pigmentation.

    But as far as the progression of his work over time, the curator's note Lukas mentioned on the back of the print makes no sense to me in the context of the reproductions I've seen. That print in red, showing the woman to have a full head of hair and giving a very nice gradation in the filmy cloud of gauze around her shoulders, is given a date of 1898 in Camera Notes; another print of apparently the same subject with the same hairdo but a different pose, that has the highlights so blown out that it looks like she has a big bald patch on the side of her head, is given the date of 1900. (And it looks that way in a variety of different reproductions, so it's not just one particular reproduction that didn't reflect the print accurately). So I'm not sure that his work could be seen as a progression in the direction of printing a full photographic tonal scale. And while some of the published heavily-pigmented and gritty works (essentially one dark tone, with lighter tones obviously carved out of the darkness with forced development) were dated before 1898, many of the darkest ones with the least tonal gradation were dated between 1902 and 1906 (that's the latest date of any of the reproductions I've seen).

    Contemporary photographers who were determined to make artistic photographs by using only the controls and methods inherent to photography rather than borrowing the methods and aesthetics of painting (notably P.H. Emerson) were openly contemptuous of Demachy's work. In answer to one criticism that his prints resembled painting more than photography, he answered that it wasn't like painting at all; while painters use the brush to apply pigment to the surface, he merely uses the brush to remove pigment to reveal the image the camera recorded. Which seems rather an artificial distinction to me, but ... whatever. The point is that from his own remarks and the remarks of observers, as well as from my own observations of (admittedly reproductions of) his work, I'm not led to a conclusion that Demachy's overall goal was to produce in gum a print that reproduced the continuous full-scale tonality of a traditional photograph, although he did do that occasionally, within gum's short-scale limitations.

    About the gelatin sizing, I'm perplexed; I didn't know he had ever said that. From the Maskell-Demachy instructions for the gum process: "Some papers may require sizing, though, as a rule, one may be reasonably content with those which ...already possess the desired surface. Should it be necessary to do so, it is easy to size with either gelatine or arrowroot."

    I don't "suppose" that he used lamp black for his black prints; I took that directly from the "pigments or colours" section of the "Materials used in the process" section of that same paper. He does mention that it is also possible to use India ink, but adds that it requires very careful grinding and mixing, and concludes that "lampblack, added to ochers and umbers and indigo, will form, separately or combined, a palette with which ...we may be very well satisfied."

    Interesting discussion,
    Katharine
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 17, 2007