The Cyanotype Updated

posted by – 09/06/12 @ 11:29am

In today’s fast paced modern age it seems like traditional methods of photography are giving way more and more to digital techniques. Digital photography has made the practice of taking pictures more accessible to the everyday person who can snap a picture on a cell phone and share it instantly with friends and social media. There is something to be said about the instant gratification of seeing your picture on the camera screen. However, despite this technology craze artists Susan Weil and José Betancourt have chosen to return to the roots of photography and experiment with the most primitive methods for documenting images. These artists work together to develop ways of updating techniques such as Van Dyke Brown printing, photograms, and especially the Cyanotype.

Cyanotype Process

Cyanotype is a photographic printing process that produces a cyan-blue print image, or blueprint. It was discovered by Sir John Herschel in 1842 and was originally used by engineers to make large-scale blueprints. A year later, Anna Atkins used this method to produce images of plants and seaweed. Her subsequent book, British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, is credited as the first to be illustrated with photography. The technique involves creating a light sensitive surface by mixing a solution of potassium ferricyanide and ferric ammonium citrate and applying it to the desired medium. While watercolor paper is often preferred, a Cyanotype can be printed on any surface capable of soaking up the iron solution. Objects or negatives are then placed on the prepared surface. The image is exposed to ultraviolet light and rinsed in water, causing the surface to turn a deep, Prussian blue.

Susan Weil and José Betancourt employ this technique in a contemporary context by using it to create sculptural forms and geometric compositions. Their constructions explore this historical photographic technique in an updated way. Their method is in stark contrast to the digital images that we are used to seeing everyday. The ghostly blue images look fresh and unique to the modern viewer, but at the same make us nostalgic for the past.

Susan Weil and José Betancourt "Catenary II"

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