So before we get into my Cyanotype Project, we’ll cover a little history.
The English scientist, astronomer and botanist, Sir John Herschel discovered the Cyanotype in 1842 as a means of ‘copying’ his notes. In the early days the paper was coated with iron salts and then used in contact printing. The paper was then washed in water and resulted in a white image on a deep blue background. The cyanotype was the first simple and practical non-silver iron process discovered a mere three years after the “official” announcement of the discovery of photography. The cyanotype provided permanent images in an elegant assortment of blue values.
|Sir John Herschel|
Along with the Cyanotype the precursors of the modern day blueprint process and variations such as the chrysotype (gold print) and the platinum process on the basis of the light sensitivity of platinum salts, Herschel managed to fix pictures using hyposulphite of soda in 1839, which is the still used today and better known as ‘hypo’. Herschel also gave us the words photography, negative, positive and snapshot. Apart from his great contribution to photography he originated the use of the Julian day system in astronomy; he named seven moons of Saturn and four moons of Uranus and investigated colour blindness and the chemical power of ultraviolet rays.
|A Sir John Herschel Image|
It was Anna Atkins who brought the Cyanotype to photography. In 1843 she began publishing folios of her photogenic drawings and in 1850, she began to publish more comprehensive collections of her work, completing a three volume anthology in 1853 called “Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions“. These books contained 424 handmade Cyanotypes images. These were the very first published works to utilize a photographic system for scientific investigation and illustration.
|Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions|
Atkins placed specimens directly onto coated paper, allowing the action of light to create a silhouette effect, a process called a photogram. Apart from her other works, she also created images of feathers and ferns. By using this photogram process, Anna Atkins is regarded as the first female photographer. Anna also experimented with the Calotype process.
|Photogram by Anna Atkins|
A photogram is a photographic image made without a camera by placing objects directly onto the surface of a light-sensitive material such as photographic paper and then exposing it to light. The usual result is a negative shadow image that shows variations in tone that depends upon the transparency of the objects used.
|“Louise” – Henry Peter Bosse|
Another, relatively unknown early Cyanotype artist was Henry Peter Bosse. Henry was a prescient photographer in that he foresaw and adhered to aesthetic values which have come to define the work of German photo-journalists around the world. Straight forward composition and a concern for the efforts of man characterize Bosse’s photographic point-of-view, as it would come to be the basis of foto-reportage. Bosse took great care when making his presentation albums. He foresaw the need for color: the intense moody blues of his refined cyanotypes reflect this concern. His cyanotypes were exposed with large glass plates and printed on the finest French cyanotype paper, each sheet off-white measuring 14.5″ x 17.2″ and bearing the watermark Johannot et Cie. Annonay, aloe’s satin. The albums are leather bound. Beyond technique, in his appreciation for railroad bridges and structural steel, Bosse stood at the forefront of German appreciation for photographic look books concerned with the hand of man, modern architecture and urban design.
|“Wagen” – Henry Peter Bosse|
The Cyanotype process became popular with pictorialists, for whom a commercial paper called ferro-prussiate was marketed. The cyanotype process has remained virtually unchanged since its invention but a few variations have been developed, one of which is the New Cyanotype II developed by Mike Ware.
Today, there appears to be resurgence in not only the Cyanotype process, but also many of its historic brethren processes. Simple easy to use Pre-coated papers under the names “Sun Art” and “Super SunPrint” are available from Amazon.com and other sources and both Liquid and Dry Chemical Kits including the New Cyanotype II kits are available from various sources including Amazon.com and Photographers Formulary.
Next Post – Cyanotype – The Project
So many of you know by now that I was sick from prior to Christmas and spent three separate evenings in the hospital and then a full 8 days in the hospital with surgery and a few weeks recovering because of a bad infection. My ailment caused me to feel sick for many months prior to Christmas and very tired lacking any sort of energy to the point where I thought perhaps I had depression since I had been feeling bad for so long.
|Click Image to Enlarge|
Then getting very sick I was admitted to the hospital and had emergency surgery. Turns out I had a very bad infection and problems with my Gall bladder including it being full of stones.
Now, several weeks later, not 100% recovered yet but I already feel 200% better! Looking back I see and understand why I haven’t posted many blogs but did post one negative blog which is unlike me to do. I even teach Social Media and always say, NEVER be negative, NEVER attack which I did. I apologise for my last blog transgression. Not making excuses but obviously it was my state of mind from being sick. I also realized during that time I had neither energy nor even the wish to head out and do some photography. Obviously I wasn’t quite right.
But now that I am better both physically and mentally I’m all pumped and eager to shoot more. I have been taking the Wendy and Russel Kwan classes “Chasing Light Stranger” that have helped me tremendously with my photography art soul searching and it has inspired and focused me. I am now more driven than ever. I have several new projects on the go. The first I will share with you is to do a set of Landscapes (won’t give out all the details here yet) that will eventually be printed on handmade Silver Salt prints. A lofty goal.
In order to achieve that goal I have embarked on a simpler easier project that will help me with the Silver Salt prints using some similar techniques but in many ways much easier and cheaper. I am now doing a series of hand done Cyanotype prints of nudes. The nudes will mostly be lighting and shapes and form of parts only. The Cyanotypes are Analog Chemical based prints like the real Cyanotypes of old.
The process however involves making Digital Negatives and learning how to create the tone curves to bring out the best possible tonal range in a medium that lacks good tonal capabilities. I have already experimented with some images including a full nude to see what kind of details I can achieve. I am pleased with the results I have already achieved.
The process also includes coating my own papers with my own formulations. This will be critical when I get to create the Silver Salt prints but for now I am gaining some great experience coating paper and testing papers and such.
My next blog posts will include some samples of the work. I created some digital versions of the Cyanotypes but they do not look at all like the originals. I will scan some of the originals to see if they look more like the real thing. I will also experiment with Photoshop to see if I can create more lifelike replicas. The image above is a digital full body nude but it has lost a lot of the detail. The tones are not right and the process, or rather iPad app I used also reduces sharpness? Not sure why that is as the original analog Cyanotype retains great detail including great resolution in the long hair. I have posted the image so that some of you that do not know what a Cyanotype image looks like, could see or get the feel for it.
In my next few posts I will give better details of the project but also of the process in hopes of encouraging you to perhaps try it out on your own. Note that the process only requires a Dim-room as opposed to a dedicated Darkroom to create the coated papers and so it is easy to do in your kitchen or bathroom. The developing only requires the sun and running water. How easy.
Next Post – Cyanotype – History