Photography studio, gallery and training complex

Battle of The Sexes: Bashing The Gums

I often wonder why some of our courses seem to appeal only to men while others appeal only to women. The recent “Gum Prints: The Art of Gum Bichromate” course was fully booked but all of the participants were female. And it isn’t the first time this has happened. In fact, whenever I’ve arranged workshops about so-called “alternative” or “historical” printing processes over the years, the vast majority of participants have been female. Why should this be? (I’d be interested to hear your thoughts).

The leading exponents of this medium worldwide appear to be a healthy mixture of the genders – so is it a British thing? When I mentioned this disparity during the class, it was suggested that men were more interested in “fiddling with their f-stops” or “comparing lens sizes” and whilst this was said in jest (or so I would like to think), perhaps there is an element of truth to it. I have definitely noticed that those courses less dependent on technicality – the more “craft-based” and imaginative “arty” processes – attract more female than male participants.

Detail of a gum print from the last workshop by Esther Parker-Duber.

Detail of a gum print from the last workshop by Esther Parker-Duber.

It would seem to me that women are less interested in the eternal pursuit of technical perfection and instead are more open to a broader concept of what is “right” in an image: are more prepared to put “something of themselves” into the picture. Even when they do take part, men will ask “how can I make this a better quality image?” whereas women will ask “can I print onto fabric?” or “can I apply the sensitizer with something else? Like a sponge?”

Male readers may disagree and as a male myself (who loves these processes), it pains me to think this may be the case. But this is simply what the evidence might suggest.

Still, if you’re a fella who’d like to redress this disparity, you’ll get the chance by enrolling on the next Gum Printing course on Saturday 11th January. 

Drying gum prints during the recent workshop.

Drying gum prints during the recent workshop.

Footnote: The Gum Bichromate process, if you’re curious, is a beautiful “printing-out” process, whereby a negative is produced from a digital image (or at least it is the way I teach it). A mixture of potassium dichromate solution, gum-type glue and pigment is painted onto watercolour paper in subdued lighting and dried. Then the negative is placed onto the paper flattened down with a sheet of glass and exposed to UV light. Finally, the print is washed to “develop” and fix the image.


4 responses

  1. I tend to agree with you about the technicalities.
    (I’ve often wondered why more women didn’t get involved in their husbands photography – the guys doing the capture and the gals doing the darkroom side of things….. but then darkroom printing is technical too perhaps?)

    October 28, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    • You’d think that arrangement might be the best of both worlds. Two of the best darkroom “master printers” I know are female so it’s hard to say, really.

      October 28, 2013 at 6:37 pm

  2. Me

    Hi David

    What an interesting observation. I totally agree-I’m more interested in producing an interesting and ‘arty’ image than the technical perfection of a shot-in fact sometimes I’m put off because I’m uncertain if my images are technically ‘perfect’ but I like what I have captured….my mobile phone pics being my particular favourite as I have it with me everywhere, and have been known to stop in field gateways to take a photo when a sky or landscape has moved me! It’s an interesting thought though when considering who a course will appeal to…..oh yes….and can you print onto fabric? (from a woman who is an Interior designer) Sue X

    P.S. Will get back to you soon with a date to book you for the beginners class I’m planning to organise and comission you to teach (have been a bit distracted-and very tired-just lately due to the addition of a small cute black puppy to the household-who thinks he should be up at 5am and wants to ‘help’ with everything then once he’s woken me sits on the sofa and falls asleep!). The big thing I need to work out is how people can pay me for courses-I have thought of Paypal through ebay or setting up a website and organising payment that way, but presume there will be some charge for the latter. I was also going to ask you if I would put it on your website, or at least link to your website so people can see your professional capabilities, but am a bit concerned if you are doing some courses for 20 whether people will think it too expensive, although I realise your courses at that price are just before and after Christmas (and may be in the snow! lol) I’m also having thoughts about booking you to teach an ‘on site’ day course e.g. ‘Photographing Stratford’ or ‘Photographing in the countryside’ (using the location at Alne Meadows, Great Alne and thereby minimising the running cost as no venue involved-there is a toilet, and an electric point so I could provide tea and coffee, and do a deal with The Huff Cap for a lunch perhaps) either as a beginners class or an advanced class. What do you recon? Perhaps try one and see how it goes? Lots going on with the house at Meadow Furlong and the tie lifting issue currently, so fingers crossed that might be possible to use as a venue (Here I’m thinking of perhaps an evening class-perhaps teaching for a couple of hours and a dinner (possibly made by me!) Food and photography seems to be featuring quite strongly in my ideas it seems!….great combination I feel! lol. But I could do Art and dinner, Music and dinner….etc etc. I’m also considering Murder Mystery evenings! I finish my part time job this week so I need to be looking at income for the rest of the year and going into next year! I’ve spent a lot on consultants and professionals in the last year in trying to get the tie removed, but hopefully will have added value to the house if I sucessfully manage to get it lifted. It has been a long haul and a big project, not without its pitfalls, but the end of the tunnel is visible, just about, so now it’s just a matter of fingers crossed as it’s all in the hands of the planners! Once a decision has been made….either way…Then to decide what to do with the house!!!….never a dull moment eh!

    Hope all is ok with you, and your family. Any dates free on the horizon for that coffee/lunch? Let’s get something in the diary. I’m looking forward to discussing some of my ideas with you, and a general catch up.

    Sue X


    October 29, 2013 at 12:28 am

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