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.

Stormy cyanotype seas

Stormy cyanotype seas

As the days brighten and lengthen, I have had renewed energy to focus on new projects, so I am pushing ahead with my book of sea and shore cyanotypes. My ideas are finally crystallising around how the book will work. I will keep you posted on how it goes and when it will become available.

Making cyanotypes is a rather lengthy process. Printing out my negatives onto acetate film takes about half an hour each. I make a contact print by placing the acetate over paper that I have coated with cyanotype solution which is then exposed to ultraviolet light for around 40 minutes. After the print has been washed in water, I leave it to dry in sunlight, which helps to deepen and enrich the tones.

This print is one of my favourites. It feels to me like it comes from another era, although it was taken 18 months ago just down the road in the industrial setting of Newhaven harbour. The ominous force of that wave against the pier brings to my mind seafaring exploits of past centuries, and the terrible storms and deadly shipwrecks associated with them.

All my hand-printed cyanotypes are available to buy. Get in touch for more information. You can find more of my cyanotypes here, and my book of Lewes Bonfire cyanotypes 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.

Where land meets sea

Where land meets sea

I have to admit that work is a tad slower than I would have liked during this third and open-ended lockdown. To keep myself busy, I have been working with my hand-printed cyanotypes again. This shot was taken at sunrise on Cape Cod during my visit last October.

I am making plans for two more cyanotype books. (My first one, about Lewes Bonfire, can be found here). One book will be photographs of the sea – mostly stormy.

The other will be photos of the plants, sand and rocks to be found where land meets sea. I will be binding them myself as limited editions. I am still working on exactly how I will do this – I’ll keep you posted! More of my cyanotypes are 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.

The year of no Bonfire

The year of no Bonfire

The last time there were no Bonfire celebrations in Lewes, it was 1960 and the town had just been severely flooded. It is not surprising that this year the event has been cancelled because of Covid-19. Even so, a week away from the 5th of November, it is hard to imagine there being no riotous, anarchic revelry.

Over the past months I have been working on a collection of Bonfire portraits, laboriously hand-printing them as cyanotypes. When I learned there would be no festivities on the 5th, I set up a pop-up exhibit of the photographs in a lovely old shopfront along the procession route. I thought of it as a tribute to the celebration that couldn’t be celebrated.

I have also published a collection of these portraits as a book. This week’s photo is the last image in the book – the goodbye shot of Smugglers marching down the hill wielding torches and flaming barrels.

An online version of the book can be found here. If you are interested in buying a copy, contact me here.

Please also head over to The Grain Store Blog. I had the pleasure of being interviewed about this project for a lovely blog post written by Katherine Murphy.

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.

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!

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