Chris Hoult is pioneering the handcrafted photographic technique of gum oil printing in New Zealand. His exhibition opens in Wellington tomorrow; here's what Chris has to say about the printing process.
Making gum oil prints
Ironically I discovered the gum oil process through the digital system. When Kodak sold out of the black & white film market I began researching alternative processes, and as luck would have it I bought two books on TradeMe. One was by Karl Koenig, who had developed the gum oil process. The process is long and involved, which probably explains why I am, as far as I know, the only Kiwi doing them and one of only a few worldwide.
First an enlarged black & white positive is made, then a contact print is made using a sheet of watercolour paper that has been precoated the night before in a light-sensitive emulsion. The print is exposed in direct sunlight, washed, and then oil paint is rubbed into the exposed print. After a day the print is washed and then, depending on results, is bleached, etched or in some cases worked with a sable brush to create individual prints.
I love being able to manipulate my prints physically, I love the fact that my contact prints are made in direct sunlight and dry in the wind. I love it that I have no control over those elements and that, combined with the enormous variables involved in the process itself, gives each handcrafted print its own unique beauty.
Chris is also the author of Out West, which Libro's Peter Dowling edited when at Reed Books, and we are working with Chris now on further book projects.