Saturday, March 9, 2013

Cyanotype - The Project

I did a lot of soul searching in my classes with Russel and Wendy Kwan trying to decide what photographic direction to go in, I finally decided to do a project on Long Exposure Landscapes but not your typical Michael Levine long exposures everyone is doing now.

Specifically, they will be different in subject matter and in the way they will be photographed and they will be printed as hand-made Silver Salt prints. Not a simple process but one I want to challenge myself with. They will also…. oh, wait, it’s a secret. A cool secret at that, and one that has me very excited. Later, when the project is closer to completion, I will share this secret with you.

One of my fake Digital Cyanotypes.

Why Silver Salt Prints? Silver Salt printing is a process that was used in the early 19th century and has the same timeless qualities that I love in photography and one I want to bring to my landscape images.

My first challenge was to figure out how to create the Silver Salt prints. Something I had no idea about when I first had the idea but having been schooled in the darkroom and having a great understanding of photographic processes, I was able to make a fairly educated guess at the work that would be involved.

I then did some studying on the subject which led me to read and learn about many other old world processes including the Cyanotype. While investigating the Cyanotype I decided I liked the look of the blue print but also it’s toned variants that can be made Pink, Red, Brown, almost Black and various other colors. As much as I liked the Blue color, I liked what the Cyanotype process did to the images themselves. It reduces details in the highlights and shadows, and contrast gets enhanced because of the reduction in tonal range. The slightly grainy effect also reduces sharpness a little but good sharp lines can still rendered. The images tend to be somewhat darker with a softness about them.

This process I decided would look great with some of the nudes I have been shooting and could bring out their classic beauty while reducing their personal nature. The final results of the monochromatic images would reduce the overall brashness of a typical nude. Cyanotype prints also seem to take on a feeling of nostalgic beauty that can be viewed without the modern interference and harshness that is present in most digital images.

The basic process of Cyanotypes involves mixing an emulsion from chemicals and then coating paper with the emulsion before exposing the image under a UV light source or the Sun. This process is very similar to the Salt Print process but much simpler in that it doesn’t require a darkroom and is safer and cheaper. This would be a good start to lead into creating Salt Prints for my Landscape project.

A new project is born. Deciding that I liked the look of the nudes with the Cyanotype process and that the Cyanotypes were a perfect lead-in to the Silver Salt prints, I decided to create a series of Classic Nudes printed as 16x20 handmade Cyanotype prints.

The project in its infancy still needs to have a few things hammered out. What will the nudes be? One woman? Several women? All classic beauties or women of varied body types, shapes and sizes? Will the images themselves be studies of light, shape and form of parts or whole bodies? Will they be made more personal by including faces?

Now I also have the technical issues to deal with. Will the Cyanotype prints be classic Prussian blue or toned? What paper should I use and how do I create the perfect Digital Negative for these Cyanotype prints? I have already been working on the Digital Negatives and have been developing Photoshop curves.

I have named the project mostly because I keep notes in a record book and I will also be blogging about the project and so I will need a reference name. Later, as the project comes along and gets more refined, I may decide to change the name to something that is more reflective of the project itself, but, for now it’s called Embodying Femininity.

Once I have mastered the Cyanotypes, whether my Cyanotype project is finished or not, I will start the Silver Salt Landscapes project.

Next Post - Cyanotype - The Negative

© 2013 Francois Cleroux
(Version 1.01 - March 2013)

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I value thoughtful comments and suggestions. If you like or dislike this post, please let me know. If you have any ideas or suggestion, comments or corrections (I do make mistakes) please also let me know. Thanks.

- Francois Cleroux