A Weekend in Bed with Christina Z. Anderson

gumprintingI just spent the weekend mostly in bed reading Christina Z. Anderson’s new book Gum Printing and Other Amazing Contact Printing Processes. Quite satisfying actually.

I have Chris’s previous book The Experimental Photography Workbook, 6th Edition which I use as a reference for alternative processes. It was in that book that I was first exposed to Lumen Prints (which I have been experimenting with this weekend while I try to shake the flu).

On the alt-photo mailing list, Chris says she has been working on the book since 2003, and spent the past 13 months pushing to write and finish. One of the strengths of this book is the copious illustrations not only of her student’s work, but from professionals on the list and historic figures as well. The illustrations of the possibilities of expression in the Lumen Print in her other book is what motivated me to give the process a try. Well produced images, truly inspiring.

I started out browsing the book, jumping around and sampling various sections. I got complete absorbed in The History of Casein chapter – especially the timeline she constructed for this process related to gum printing. The book is well-organized. For both gum and casein printing Chris first tells you how to do it, with massive amounts of succinct practical steps and advice to produce a print. Only when she is through with that does she now take you through the background and history in detail. I appreciate this experiential approach to alternative processes, followed by the context.

I slowed down later and started approaching the book systematically (though I must say I got waylaid by her massive pigment chart in Chapter 5 Pigments for Gum and Casein, and her oh so practical Quick ‘n’ Easy Paper Chart on pages 10-12). Besides the lack of typos (great proofreaders! thank you – hate typos), I was once again impressed by the succinct continual practical advice throughout the introductory chapters. For example:

  • Contact printing frame. One can’t spend too much on this! Start with no smaller than an 11″ x 14″.
  • Shot glass with a rounded inside bottom for platinum or any other process where you are using small amounts of precious chemistry.
  • Paper tip: to handle fragile papers that don’t have great wet strength, buy fiberglass window screening a bit larger than the paper to transfer the print from one bath to the next.

And so on. The practical asides, tight and to the point, are so valuable to getting over trouble spots as you make your way through the alternative processes in this 320 page book. The prose is clear, tight and lightly written in an engaging style. No dry technical book is this.

Alternative formulas and approaches/techniques are calle out for various processes. The processes included are:

  • Gum Printing (the focus of the book at 112 pages)
  • Casein printing (another dichromated colloid process)
  • Cyanotype (including Ware’s New Cyanotype)
  • Argyrotype
  • Kallitype
  • Vandyke Brown
  • Platinum and Palladium
  • POP Palladium or Ziatype
  • Salted Paper
  • Combination printing

There is a chapter on making Digital Negatives mostly written by Ron Reeder. It is a good overview and approach, though I’m pretty comfortable at this point with Mark Nelson’s Precision Digital Negative system, so found myself comparing the approaches as I read.

Buy the book, pick a process, and get your hands dirty. This book is complementary to the Experimental Photography Workbook (as Lumen Prints are not covered here). Between the two you can fill up endless weekends in bed and the dim room.

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