In search of the cyanotype zing

In search of the cyanotype zing

In preparation for my Artwave show I have been playing around with my archive of architecture projects, experimenting with which images work as cyanotypes. As always with this medium, it is not a clear translation from one type of photograph to another. It isn’t even as straight forward as making a picture monochromatic. I have spent the past year and a half pondering the secret ingredient that makes some images fall flat as cyanotypes, and makes others zing and I still can’t always put my finger on it.

This photograph is from my project documenting the construction of the Depot Cinema in Lewes – a project that I loved. You might be surprised to know that this was taken a mere two months before the Depot opened to the public. In this shot, I think it is the drama of the light, the sharp angles, and the silhouetted figure right in the middle, that translate well into the high contrast of a cyanotype.

A large print of this photograph is on display at my Artwave show. I will be showing again this year with artist Kelly Hall. You can find us at venue 91, St Anne’s House, 111 High Street, Lewes, BN7 1XY (across the street from Shelley’s). We will be open the 18, 19, 25 and 26 September, 11am-5pm.

My new book sea shore will be available to buy at my exhibit as well. It is a collection of 29 of my landscape cyanotypes and two poems written by Sara London. I am currently in the process of hand binding this limited first edition. If you are interested in buying a copy, you can pre-order directly from my website.

All my hand-printed cyanotypes are available to buy. Information about purchasing my prints and all of my photography books can be found here.

Please contact me if you have a workplace, an event, a celebration, a portrait or a building project you would like to have photographed.

Bringing New England to Old England

Bringing New England to Old England

I will be showing this cyanotype of a church that is just a short walk from my home on Cape Cod, in order to bring a touch of New England to my East Sussex Artwave exhibit. Built in 1827, it is a handsome white clapboard Greek Revival building and the oldest church in our tiny town of Truro.

I have been experimenting with ways of printing my cyanotypes at larger sizes than the 30x40cm that most of them have been so far. One method is my multi-panelled prints. This works well for landscapes and organic, textured closeups, but doesn’t feel right for architectural photos.

The enlargement process is complicated by the fact that I need a structure to suspend several ultraviolet lights over my plates while at the same time giving an even exposure. I have finally figured out a way to manage this so that I can print up to 40x60cm.

This photo of the Truro Congregational Church is one of the first prints I made at this larger size. Of course you can’t tell from the scan that it is larger, but take my word for it, it looks great!

As I mentioned last time, I will be launching my new book sea shore at our Artwave show and will be exhibiting landscape images from the book, as well as showing a range of cyanotypes from my architectural documentary projects.

If you are in the Lewes area over the last three weekends in September, I hope you can stop by. I will be exhibiting with the painter Kelly Hall again this year and you can find us at St Anne’s House, 111 High St, Lewes, BN7 1XY. Opening hours are 11-5. You can find information about my new book here, and can contact me if you would like to pre-order one. All my hand-printed cyanotypes are available to buy. Information about purchasing my prints and books can be found here.

Loosening the anchor of time and space

Loosening the anchor of time and space

Last time I wrote about using cyanotype with landscape and seascape photographs. This week I wanted to share with you my experiments using the technique with architectural photographs.

Trying to visualise how a digital photograph will translate as a hand-printed cyanotype is not straight forward. As I mentioned in my last post, it is such long process getting from the beginning to the end result that I need to have a pretty good idea whether a photo will work.

There is always the element of surprise, though. Photos that I feel sure of can fall flat, and ones that seem like a long shot can be bang on the money.

Using the technique with architectural photography is an interesting shift away from the organic forms of landscapes. I have been working on this idea for some time and wanted to try focussing on a unified group of photographs taken from a single project.

My recent shoot of Madeira Terrace in Brighton seemed a good place to start. This photograph was taken from the upper level terraces looking down onto the green copper roof of the Concorde 2 nightclub.

There is something about the cyanotype process that can remove the anchor of time and space from an image, highlighting instead the shape, texture and light of the composition. That is an exciting dynamic to be working with.

The magnificent Madeira Terrace of Brighton

The magnificent Madeira Terrace of Brighton

I have a treat for you today, taking you from one iconic Brighton building last time to another one this week. This is a view of the upper level and lift tower of Madeira Terrace, the spectacular 865m-long Victorian covered walkway that lines the seafront at Madeira Drive in Brighton.

Built at the end of the 19th century, according to Historic England this Grade II* structure is “very rare being the only known, land-based, monumentally-scaled, iron promenade in England, and possibly worldwide; although converted to electric power, the three-stage lift is an early and rare example of a hydraulic, water-powered lift in a seaside location”. To top it all, this is also the location of the oldest and longest green wall in the UK. The cliff face was planted with Japanese Spindle trees 20 years before the terrace was built. The trees continue to thrive 150 years later.

In 2012 Madeira Terrace was closed to the public because it had become unsafe. Brighton and Hove Council have now secured funding for an ambitious renovation project, working in partnership with the local community, to “restore the arches and create a new sustainable leisure, social and business space sensitive to the terraces original design”. Please have a look at the Council’s plans here. They are very exciting.

I have been drafted in to document the restoration, starting with the site as it stands now. It was with a keen pleasure that I headed behind the fencing to the deserted terraces, with the sweeping sea views all to myself. In these closed-off areas, it was interesting to notice how the balance between human structure and nature was leaning towards greenery and wildlife. You can find a selection of photos from my first shoot here.

New flood defence

New flood defence

This is Free Wharf, a large scale development that will bring 536 mixed tenure homes and commercial spaces to Shoreham Harbour over the next few years. I have been photographing the site for Southern Housing Group since July of last year. This shot is significant because it shows the new flood defence inside the rusty old sea wall running parallel to it.

The engineering required to build this is beyond my understanding, but I have been photographing the muddy, mucky, painstaking process over the past year and a half. I think that is why I particularly like this photograph.

The diagonal lines of the shot encompass the high tide of the mighty River Adur, the crumbly edge of the old flood defence, and the clean strong angles of the new construction. There is the added visual treat of the red-jacketed workman, the red fence, and that red crane off in the distance.

A selection of my photos of Free Wharf taken over the past 18 months can be found here. Information about Southern Housing Group and this development is here.

there is still time for Christmas orders!

What you can give…

  • Vouchers are available for the gift of a photography session
  • All photos from my website are available as archival Giclee prints on rag paper in a variety of sizes
  • Hand-printed cyanotypes from my collection
  • Lewes Bonfire Portraits book of cyanotypes
  • 11 Sun Street a photographic story of a Victorian terraced house in Lewes

Contact me to get further information on any of the above.

What happens when Ashcombe Windmill is cyanotype-d?

What happens when Ashcombe Windmill is cyanotype-d?

Welcome to Photo of the Week, here to brighten up your inbox. I hope you are all staying well during these difficult times.My cyanotype journey continues. After landscapesseascapes and portraits, I turned my attention to my love of architecture to see how this could translate into my new medium.

After much experimentation, once again I had some interesting discoveries. Many photos that I thought would work beautifully, just would not cooperate. But then sometimes I would get unexpected results that could turn the original digital photograph into something else entirely.

This is Ashcombe Windmill, perched on the Downs above Lewes. The tonal qualities bestowed on the photograph by the cyanotype and hand-printing processes have dropped it into another time and place.

I began to realise that one of the beauties (and frustrations) of cyanotype is the unexpected. There are so many variables to the process that I can never be fully in control of the end product. Sometimes that end product can feel like a gift.

As I mentioned last week, I am self-publishing a book of my cyanotype Bonfire portraits. It will be available for sale during my Artwave exhibit and also by mail order. More information is available here.

A large selection of this new work will be shown as part of the Lewes District Artwave Festival in a joint exhibit with artist Kelly Hall. You can find us at St Anne’s House, 111 High St, Lewes, BN7 1XY, opposite Shelley’s Hotel. We will be open the first three weekends in September, 11am-5pm. Please do come by and say hello!

You can find a selection of my cyanotypes here and learn how I create them here.

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