Ever since I started photographing and making my own prints many years ago I have been fascinated by alternative printing techniques. So when it was my turn to lead a “Maker Studio Friday” session, I thought it would be interesting to have the people in the studio making their own photographic prints.
Most alternative printing techniques involves chemicals that would not be very convenient to use in the studio. But there is one that only uses water, Cyanotypes. The cyanotype printing process was discovered by the English scientist and astronomer Sir John Herschel in 1842 as a simple and low-cost process to produce copies of drawings, referred to as blueprints.
The first person to use Cyanotypes in an artistic way was Anna Atkins. She created a series of cyanotype limited-edition books that documented ferns and other plant life from her extensive seaweed collection. The placement of specimens directly onto coated paper allowed the action of light to create a silhouette effect. By using this photogram process, Anna Atkins is sometimes considered the first female photographer as well as often considered the first person to publish a book illustrated with photographic images.
The process is very simple: You place stuff on light-sensitized paper which is exposed to UV light—for instance, the sun—for three to 30 minutes, depending on the strength of the light source. Then you develop the print in water. As it dries the print gets darker and darker.
Cyanotypes are very easy to make and I think they look beautiful.
This summer at ThoughtMatter, we’re ending every week with a “Maker Studio Friday” activity. During each session, a different studio member leads us through a hands-on activity that results in each of us having made something with our hands and minds. The activities help us keep our minds open, and pushes us to create better and more innovative work for our clients.