Tuesday, October 11, 2011

cyanotypes and why they're awesome

Do you want to know why cyanotypes are awesome?

1. They are blue. I like blue. But this is like...20% of their awesomeness. Most of it is derived from point 2.

2. They wash for about 60 seconds.

If you don't spend a lot of time in the dark room, you may not realize why this is so amazing, so let me explain.

You've just spent about four hours standing up, on cement floors, in the dark, peering at negatives, bending low over vats (all right, trays) of noxious chemicals, trying to decide - is this print good? Should it have a 4 or 4.5 contrast filter? Ten second burn on the edges? Too much? Better try it again.

At the end of four hours, you have maybe four prints. You're hungry... Okay, maybe I should stop writing this in second person, because what I really mean is: I'M HUNGRY. And cranky. And tired. And just done. Only I'm not done. Because I still have to wash those prints.

Five minutes in water, five minutes in permawash, fifteen minutes in the archival washer. It doesn't sound like much, but when I'm done I really want to be, you know, actually done.

So I really like cyanotypes. Even though the exposure times are more like five to ten minutes than ten to twenty seconds. Even though the test strips take forever. Even though you have to mix the chemicals, paint them on your paper, and let them dry before you can even start. (Even though, when you try to speed up the process with a hair dryer, sometimes it makes mysterious green sparks...) I don't mind all that. In fact, I kind of enjoy it.

Because, at the end of all that, when you're done, you're also finished.

And I really like blue.

Anyway, this is my first one, and I'm pretty happy with it.

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