Recently I attended an excellent workshop run by the lovely Helen Dixon at Bainbridge Print Studios in Lambeth. The process is simple but fascinating and capable of producing endlessly variable results.
Cyanotype is a type of photogram process, one of the earliest forms of photography involving creating photographic prints by laying objects onto treated paper and exposing it to light. The V&A collection includes 4 photogram images by Anna Atkins, the first woman to take a picture and the very first person in the world to print and publish a photographically illustrated book, ‘British Algae, Cyanotype Impressions, Part 1’. The process was invented by Sir John Herschal the year before in 1842. The process is probably best known for producing ‘blueprints’ as it was an easy and accurate way of duplicating technical and architectural drawings.
A remarkably simple process, once the paper has been prepped using a solution of Ferric Ammonium Citrate and Potassium Ferricyanide, the objects are placed on the paper and exposed to sunlight or UV light. The more light passes through the object or negative, the bluer the area will appear. Images are produced without the need for a dark room, developer or printing press.
We experimented with feathers, foliage, flowers and even large nails I had brought from home. We also used negatives printed onto acetate, torn paper, objects and hand drawn abstract compositions created using lithograph crayons and Indian ink – each produces very different results, from crisp photographic realness to soft impressionistic images.
Ross has experiemented with Cyanotypes before but this was the first time I gained any experience of the process myself. It has left me with lots of ideas of how we can incorporate cyanotypes into our practice. Now I really just need to prep my paper and get on with it!