Friday, September 14, 2012

Cyanotype-Photogram Fun

As part of my job, I occasionally work with students by doing demonstrations, giving small lectures or (usually) just sitting in for a professor. Today I filled in for Professor Gootee by leading her first year seminar group in creating cyanotype photograms.

Photograms are sort of like a photograph created without the use of a camera. In the simplest terms, it is when we take a piece of light sensitive paper, place an object upon it, expose it to light, and then develop it as you would any piece of photographic paper.

We began by watching a short video about Floris Neususs (found here), an artist who creates photograms by placing light sensitive paper into environments and letting the natural light and shadows create the image.

They each then received a piece of pre-coated cyanotype paper and were told to make an image using his process.

For those unfamiliar with cyanotype, it is a type of photographic printing pioneered in the mid-1800s. It is a fairly simple mix of chemicals that are applied to a paper (or other surface capable of surviving a wash-bath) and then allowed to dry. Exposure occurs with UV light (in our case, the sun!). The result is a a blue-cyan monochromatic image, where the process the derives its name.

After making an exposure on the paper (their choice of one long 15 minute exposure or 3 separate 5 minute exposures) they brought the cyanotypes in to the wash-bath (just water) and let them wash for 5 minutes.

Afterwards, they did a second, shorter bath in smaller batches to remove any left-over inactivated chemicals.

After removing them from the bath, the photographs were gently pat dry with paper towels (already sitting in neat little pre-torn stacks, thanks to Professor Gootee).

... Then left to dry.

Not picture of any of these; Professor Lippillo. How did you escape me?

Cyanotypes are actually a really simple, fun process to experiment with. The kits are fairly inexpensive (20-40$) and come in a variety of flavors from DIY chemical kits that you mix yourself, to packets of paper that are already treated with the necessary chemicals (only need to expose!).

To make a more traditional print you only need a negative transparency of an image (or a drawing or design). Many printers, even budget models, can print transparencies. If this seems too much hassle, any basic print shop should be able to do it for you. Once you have a transparency, place it over the treated paper (& under a piece of glass for a clear, crisper image) and in the sun to expose it. No extra chemicals are required during the bath phase, though certain things can be added to increase contrast or add effects.

1 comment:

  1. Steven, you should be a professor. Seriously! This was educational! I had no idea this existed. Very cool.