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 Atkins 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.
First cyanotype before washing…
…and after washing.
Printing digital negatives in the photo lab.
Little cyanotype printed from original negative.
Little cyanotype printed from original negative.
Large print after exposure, before washing.
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!
Negatives from yesterdays shoot
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.
So, I broke my laptop. It was the weekend before my birthday and I woke up super excited to drive to GA to visit my family. In a rush to turn off my alarm I knocked over a glass of water that landed on my poorly placed laptop. Didn’t think the damage was that bad… But It turned out to be pretty bad. Luckily, the lovely gentlemen at geek squad helped save my hard drive. Silver lining.
Photo work has been slow going since the incident. Since I can’t edit photos right now I’ve been focusing on artist statements. I have a few almost completed bodies of work that are missing statements and it feels great to finally explain my intentions and flesh out my ideas. Finishing an artist statement is like putting on lipstick.
Here are some photo sketches of a new series I’m working on, Urban Flora.
Ya know those people who typically see the glass half full? They try to see the good in a bad situation and smile through the difficult times? Yeah, that’s me. Usually. I have been feeling a bit discouraged lately. Asheville is a magical place, but it’s true what they say about finding a job here… so… difficult. It’s been about two months and I’ve sent out more resumes than I can count. Oh, I know this too shall pass but every now and then even a happy girl gets the blues.
But don’t get me wrong, there is still plenty to celebrate! I was lucky enough to be chosen by the most stellar, beautiful and incredible art gallery to be their intern. Check them out, CastellPhotographyGallery you will love them just as much as I do, I’m sure. This is such an amazing opportunity and I feel so honored that Bri and Heidi chose me to be their intern. We spent this week installing a new show, Objects in Perspective, that opens this Friday at the gallery at 6pm.
I’ve had a lot of free time what with being out of work these past couple months, so I’ve been working on a new photography website (but really it’s a blog 😉 ). Check me out, BlindBanditPhotography! Once I get my feet on the ground here I have plans to experiment with multiple exposures and cyanotypes. This has been in the works for a while so I am very pumped about it and I feel like this is going to be a great year for my photographic efforts.
So, sometimes life gets rough. It happens to all of us. But at the end of the day I still have so much to be thankful for. Going to visit my family in Georgia last weekend helped me to realize that. Reality checks are necessary and they aren’t always pretty, but there is no sense in drowning in self pity. I am making a promise to myself to face my challenges head on. Giving up is simply not an option, I’m only going to get stronger.