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.

New book of cyanotype landscapes coming soon

New book of cyanotype landscapes coming soon

I am very pleased to announce that my new book sea shore will be ready in time for my Artwave show in September. The first edition of 100 copies will be printed over the next week and then I will begin the process of hand binding them all. The book is a collection of 29 cyanotypes of sea and shoreline landscapes, with two poems written specifically for this project by American poet Sara London.

My photo this week is the image on the cover of the book. This curved wave was photographed in Newhaven during a winter storm. The unusual shape came, I think, from the force of the wave rebounding against the arm of the breakwater and circling back into the harbour.

I headed to the coast early in the morning the day after the worst of the storm. The wind was still fierce but the sky was clear. Low sunlight skimmed across the water, highlighting every ridge and wrinkle on the wind-whipped surface and catching in the white spray of the waves.

In my Artwave exhibit I will be showing the original hand-printed cyanotypes used for sea shore, several of them printed as large, multi-panelled prints, as well as having the book itself available to buy. I have also been working with architectural imagery, creating cyanotypes from some of my recent projects, including Brighton’s Madeira Terrace and the Brighton Dome Corn Exchange.

I will be exhibiting with the painter Kelly Hall again this year. Our show will be open over the last three weekends in September at St Anne’s House, 111 High Street, Lewes, BN7 1XY.

Information about pre-ordering sea shore is here. All my hand-printed cyanotypes are available to buy. Information about purchasing my prints and 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.

super-sized seaweed cyanotype

super-sized seaweed cyanotype

I have been experimenting with how large I can go with my cyanotype prints in preparation for an exhibit in September. I am limited by my set-up, which includes four uv lights, two heavy pieces of toughened glass in which to sandwich the paper and negative during exposure, and a modestly sized bath tub that I wash the prints in. The largest single print I can make is approximately 60cm (24″).

This photograph of bladderwrack seaweed, taken on the west coast of Wales last summer, has so much detail and texture in it that I knew it could work at a large scale. I hit upon the idea of printing 24 separate squares that fit together to create a larger whole. The complete print is 115 x 75cm/ 45 x 30″ (see my toes for scale!).

Because this is a hand-printing process, the colour and exposure of each square varies slightly and the joins between them do not align perfectly, giving a more painterly effect. I am enjoying taking yet another step away from the perfection of digital printing.

I will be hard at work on more large and small prints for my Artwave show in September, more details to follow soon. I am also pushing on with the design of my hand-bound book of cyanotype landscapes of the sea and shoreline.

If you would like information about pre-ordering my book  please get in touch. All my hand-printed cyanotypes are available to buy. Information about purchasing my prints and books can be found here.

A tale of two home towns

A tale of two home towns

I came back yesterday from a long-overdue trip to my other home town of Truro, out on the end of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I caught up with family and friends who I have been unable to see for many months because of Covid, and I swam at my favourite beaches – the ones I grew up on.

When it came time to return to Lewes, I took the ferry from neighbouring Provincetown, across Cape Cod Bay to Boston. There were raindrops on the ferry windows and clouds shimmered over the expanse of sea. Leaving by water always feels like the most appropriate way to depart from this peninsula stuck out in the Atlantic.

Travel bans over the past 16 months have heightened my sense of the complexity of being from more than one country. As much as I love and belong in each place, I never lose the connection and longing for the other. Covid restrictions have reminded me of how lucky I am that I can usually travel easily between my two home towns. I know this is a privilege denied to many around the world.

More of my landscape photography can be found here. All my hand-printed cyanotypes are available to buy. Please get in touch for more information, and also if you have a workplace, an event, a celebration, a portrait or a building project you would like to have photographed.

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.

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