Seashore life in minute detail

Seashore life in minute detail

My cyanotype journey continues with what became a surprisingly beloved subject matter over the past months. While I was photographing the wide expanse of the Seven Sisters white cliffs, I ended up turning my lens down to the tiny world of the seaweed that covers the rocks at Hope Gap.

I became interested in the minute detail of shore life – glossy, rubbery, bumpy seaweed, shiny wet rocks and the hard circular forms of snails. There is something about the cyanotype process that sharpens and enhances details in a photograph, making the seaweed even glossier and bumpier, the rocks shinier. It was exciting to take this tiny spot on the beach and enlarge it so that all of that life was visible.

In my Artwave show, I am exhibiting a Hope Gap seaweed print that is over 750mm (30″) wide, making this little corner of the seashore much much larger than life. Of all the varied subjects that I have hand-printed as cyanotypes over the past months, it is my seaweed ones that I love the most, that I feel a visceral, almost physical connection with. You can find a selection of my cyanotypes here and learn how I create them here.

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. You can find more information here. A large selection of this new work is being 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 12/13 and 19/20 September, 11am-5pm. Please do come by and say hello!

How an anchor becomes a whale

How an anchor becomes a whale

As I continued to experiment with what had become my new photographic toy – the cyanotype process – I realised it gave me a way to work with photos in my archive that I loved but had never figured out what to do with. This medium gave them something that had been lacking as a straight digital photograph.

Two years ago we were staying with a friend on the southern coast of Portugal. One day she took us to Praia do Barril, a beach that had once been the seasonal home of a community of tuna fishermen and their families. The tuna eventually moved to different waters in the mid 20th century and the focus of the area turned to tourism. On the beach more than 100 huge anchors have been placed in rows as a reminder of this previous way of life. It was a surprising and striking sight.

I loved this shot, but it was through the cyanotype process that something otherworldly emerged from the flaking rust and graceful shape of the anchor against the white sand and bright sky. Was it now a whale, or maybe a duck – or even an alien?

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. You can find more information 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!

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.

Next step: cyanotype portraiture

Next step: cyanotype portraiture

Over my past couple of blog posts I have been telling you about my cyanotype journey during lockdown. After experimenting with photographs of storms, wild seas and dramatic landscapes, I wanted to see how this technique would work for portraiture.

I began hunting through the largest collection of portraits in my archive – my Lewes Bonfire photos. I was interested to see what this process could add to the atmosphere of the photos. Again, it took a lot of trial and error. In order for the technique to work, I discovered the photos needed certain qualities. If the light falling on a face was too flat, the photo would not translate well into cyanotype. The same was the case if there was not enough detail – or there was too much, or if the photo was not sharp enough, or if it was too dark. But for the successful ones, the process added a drama and a mystery that would not have been possible by digital means alone.

I have been so excited by the results of my bonfire cyanotypes that I am self-publishing a book of them. 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 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.

Please get in touch if you have a workplace, an event, a celebration, a portrait or a building project you would like to have photographed.

Dazzled at Hope Gap

Dazzled by Hope Gap

So, let us continue together on our cyanotype journey. After weeks and weeks stuck at home during lockdown, my family’s first joyous outing to a beach was to the aptly named Hope Gap near Seaford. It is along this Sussex coastline that the chalk hills of the South Downs hit the sea in steep dramatic cliffs.

The day was bright and still. An hour’s walk brought us to a gap in the rolling green scrubland. Opened out before us was a vista of sparkling sea, with the undulating Seven Sisters to the left and a headland rising straight out of the water to the right.

Down on the beach the tide was out and the cliffs loomed sharp and jagged, their white edges standing out against sky. I felt moved nearly to tears at the startling beauty of it all.

I had been working doggedly on my storm cyanotypes over many lockdown hours when I began to think about using the technique for other types of landscape photographs. The process is tricky and it is difficult to predict how a photograph will translate from computer screen to hand-made print.

For many photos, it doesn’t really work, but for some, the tonal qualities of cyanotype heighten the feelings I want to convey in a photograph. This mightiest of the Sisters is called Haven Brow and towers 77 meters (253 ft) above Cuckmere Haven. The cyanotype process helps to convey what I wanted here – a sense of the majesty of this cliff face.

You can find a selection of my cyanotypes here and learn how I create them here.This new work will be exhibited in September in a joint exhibit with artist Kelly Hall as part of the Lewes District Artwave Festival.

It’s a whole new ballgame

It’s a whole new ballgame

Lockdown has been many things for many people. Although obviously a very upsetting time, for me it also proved to be productive and I am excited to share with you what I have been working on. Back in January, my daughter came home from college with some cyanotypes she had made and I was immediately taken with the potential of the technique. Thus began months of experimentation.

Cyanotype is a traditional darkroom method dating back to the 1840s. I use acetate to create a negative from a digital file and use this to make a contact print onto paper that I have painted with cyanotype solution.

It is a deceptively simple process. It is fickle and inconsistent and can drive me crazy, but when it works, it is joyous. There is variation in each print so, unlike a digital photograph, every image is unique. 

Because I was unable to leave the house I had many hours to play with the process, seeing what types of images worked best and how far I could push the technique. I began with photos I took during the winter storms that pounded our coastline, perhaps because I was missing the sea so much during lockdown. 

You can find a selection of my cyanotypes here. This new work will be exhibited in September as part of the Lewes District Artwave Festival. A book of my Bonfire cyanotypes is available as well, more information on that here.

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