Sun Print Cyanotypes with Kids
A readily available Sun Print kit allows you to make photogram sun prints (or cyanotypes) at home using the most basic supplies, UV light and water. It’s a simple photography project suitable for any age, nurturing creativity through composition and patience. A brief and extremely subjective history of cyanotypes follows the tutorial.
To get started we grabbed the dog, some garden snips, a basket, went for a walk and clipped as we went collecting bits of nature from our suburban landscape. The walk took much longer than the craft. But it’s a fun part – seeing what children think are the most interesting subjects for the compositions.
This kit comes with 15 ready-to-expose sheets of 5×7″ paper and an acrylic sheet used to flatten the objects to the paper. The full method is described on the package. Essentially you set-up indoors and away from sunlight. Pull a sheet or two out, place on top of a cutting board or cookie sheet for easy transport, place your subject materials on top of the paper (blue side up). Flatten glass or acrylic over objects, if desired. Move outdoors and expose to light. Patiently watch as the blue paper turns to white-ish blue in 1-5 minutes. Carefully move everything indoors & slide subject matter off paper. Rinse each page for 1 minute under running water. The white paper turns blue again. Lay papers on drying towels. Press under books or other heavy objects to flatten when completely dry. The paper deepens to a dark blue as it dries.
The botanical subjects:
A presentation of sewing instruments:
A plastic baby doll and barbie with big hair:
I consider the following examples less desirable, the leaf was moved (double exposed) and the manly cyanotype (sunglasses, watch, nail clippers) did not come out as defined as some of the other objects.
About Cyanotypes and Photograms
Cyanotypes are a simple alternative process photography technique. Fine art paper is treated with a light sensitized material, a subject is arranged on top of the paper (such as an object of varying density or a film or transparency negative which would make a contact print). The paper and subject are exposed to UV light and washed thoroughly. The resulting image is a blue (cyan) and white negative image. If you used film negatives for a contact print you would have a positive image. Early cyanotype photogenic images were used to reproduce documents (early blue prints) and also to document plant specimens by Anna Atkins, who learned the process directly from the inventor, Sir John Herschel. Besides cyanotypes, there are many other metallic-based alternative processes. When I studied photography I loved making salted paper and luxe palladium prints both of which result in brown images with a purple tint. They are stunning.
Man Ray is perhaps the most famous artist to use the process of photograms. He so enthusiastically used the format that his abstract compositions were dubbed Rayographs. Many years later a German artist, Lotte Jacobi, took the process one step further creating “photogenics” by actually drawing with light using a flashlight through layered textures to produce interesting shadow and landscape effects.
If you’re looking for more inspiration may I invite you to peruse my le photographe board? Keep in mind the images are all very copyrighted and small. So any interest is worth researching further – just crack open a history of photography book. My alma mater, UMBC, has a top notch (perhaps unsurpassed) special collections department. Back in the nineties I researched the photographic work of Imogene Cunningham and Lotte Jacobi and was honored to comb through actual photographs under the careful eye of the curator, Tom Beck, who also allowed me to interview him. If you’re local you should see if they’re taking appointments. It’s one thing to see these works in a book or online, quite another to see them in person.
This entry was posted on Friday, August 17th, 2012 at 3:21 pm and is filed under Tutorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.