Photos on Fabric

It always amazes me how quickly the months fly by, especially after summer is over. Once the fall hits things start happening so quickly! We definitely had an Indian summer here in Georgia, but now the temperatures are cooling down and the days are getting shorter.

I’ve been keeping busy in the studio these past couple months, in part because I’ve been inspired, but mainly because I can control the temperature in here and pretend we’ve been having that crisp autumn weather I love so much. One of my (creative) dreams came true last month; I successfully printed cyanotypes on fabric! Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m obsessed with denim, so naturally, I sourced some nice raw white denim from a local fabric shop for my prints. I also sampled a cotton/poly blend because the texture is more flat and even, but I settled on raw denim because I love the lines in the fabric and the frayed edges.

If you want to print cyanotypes on fabric, I would suggest using a cotton fabric with a low, even weave so that you can get as much image detail as possible. I am going for a unique collaboration of the two mediums I’m using here (cyanotype prints + fabric) so I don’t mind the loss of image detail I have on my prints. As always, for me, it’s all about the process.

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A Bit About Cyanotypes

The cyanotype process was discovered by Sir John Herschel in 1842. It’s a photographic process made from a light sensitive iron based solution painted onto thick paper (or fabric, wood, ceramic… basically anything porous). A lot of people use this method to make photograms, which are images made by placing an object directly on the paper (contact printing) such as flowers and leaves. Botanist Anna AtkinsĀ  used the cyanotype process to document different kinds of algae and was the first person to publish a photographic book, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions.

I’ve been working over the past couple months on my cyanotype set up at home. I built a UV light box to print with because light boxes are more reliable then sunlight. You can see how I constructed my light box here: LED UV Light Box DIY. I use the Photographers Formulary cyanotype kit which comes with all the chemicals you need plus instructions. The images I make are pretty big, 16×20, so I use a local photo lab to print my digital negatives.

This is a really great, hands on process. It’s easy to learn but not without its challenges. Figuring out exposure times and contrast control can depend on the type of paper you are using, your chemical mixture, UV light source and other things. However, the process is so rewarding these minor setbacks feel more like a fun puzzle.

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First cyanotype before washing…

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…and after washing.

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Printing digital negatives in the photo lab.

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Little cyanotype printed from original negative.

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Little cyanotype printed from original negative.

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Large print after exposure, before washing.

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Prints drying.

When dreams become day jobs

My Cyanotype Project was an idea I got about a year ago. I’ve always been way into alternative photography, old processes and mixed media art and one day while daydreaming, they all kind of collided into this idea; mixed media cyanotypes! I thought about printing beautiful images on watercolor paper and then painting over them with bright, neon colors. I even thought of drawing over the images, or making double exposures… I just let my imagination run wild. At that same time I was in a pretty hardcore Sergio Leone phase. Spaghetti Westerns were all I was watching! So, that western influence trickled into my cyanotype/mixed media/alt photography idea. Another project I used to dream about was taking portraits of all of my girlfriends. Like, really natural, laid back photo shoots that celebrated the natural beauty of the women I know and love. At this point I had all the pieces and I just put them together; portraits of strong women printed using the cyanotype process, painted over or altered by hand in someway with a western vibe.

It’s been slow going over the past year. I began experimenting with paint and drawing to figure out a look and pallet that I like, I’ve been reading up on cyanotypes (which I will describe in detail in another post), and I’ve been compiling a list of supplies that I need to get going. I recently changed my schedule to allow more time for photography. I’ve decided to actually, actively give my dreams the fire they give me. Yesterday I did my first official photo shoot for this project and I couldn’t be more please with the images. This morning I ordered the supplies to build my own UV lightbox for cyanotype printing (construction of which will also be getting its own blog post). This thing is happening now, and it’s awesome!

 

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Negatives from yesterdays shoot

 

Hampton, 2014

Oh! Hello.

I have been keeping busy catching up on work. Did you know I shot more film in 2014 then I did last year?

At that time I was obsessed with documenting the towns around where I lived (which was Hampton, CT). That area is known by the locals as “The Quiet Corner” because it is a very rural, somewhat low income pocket in the northwestern corner of CT. These towns used to host mills, factories and farms but now they are mostly residential.

Driving around Hampton made me feel like I was living in an old New England story. I couldn’t help but photograph it.

More to come.