Week 9: Shadows

I’ve been racking my brain on what to do for this week’s theme, when I realized, I already have something which I just recently completed.

When thinking of shadows, one most likely thinks of the shadow that something casts.  You’re able to see interesting distortions to the original form, and the ground or object that the shadow is cast on can also create some interesting visual details.  One of my favorite things to do, however, has to do with the blockage of light, and the “shadow” which is cast from that.

When making cyanotypes, I’m always working with what shadow an object or negative will cast to leave some interesting mark on my paper.  It’s not a shadow in the sense of Peter Pan, or sitting under a shady tree, but the image which results is due to the shadow which is cast.  So when my “Alternative Processes” professor said that we needed to create negatives for out first project, I approached it in a similar way.  He told us to make “paper negatives”, where we layered different objects (like paper or tape) to make different densities and values once we develop our prints.  Hmmm…no thanks.  I’m not a fan of what kind of geometric and abstract forms that will create.  So I decided to find some objects, which ended up being feathers and plants from around the house, and and a few doodles.

I’ve never worked with feathers before, so I was hopeful to achieve some interesting and intricate details from those.  I’ve also never drawn on any of my negatives, but, since along with the paper and tape, he mentioned drawing on our negatives with different tools, I thought I would humor the idea and give it a try.

So there they are!  I love how they turned out, and I’m glad I decided to scan them, because the colors and contrast are great.  I have to say, this is nearing two months old, and I’m shocked to see how much color is left in these leaves.  Anyways, I started pretty much in this order.  I thought, “well, I’ll just do what I’ve always done.  I like that!”.  Since I’ve worked with photograms in the past, and have been wanting to get back in the darkroom to do more, I wanted to get back to the arrangements which I really liked; simple objects and compositions which let the light start to show through, creating interesting shadows and values.  Then I thought I would do a little drawing, to make sure I stayed in line with the assignment.  I didn’t know what to do, so I took my transparency sheet with the fern on it, and just began doodling.  I’m never confident in my drawing capabilities, but the more I did, the more I liked it.

With the easy ones done, and one complicated doodle, I had to think of some other ideas.  I did, after all, need a total of six negatives for the assignment, and I was only half way done.  There were a couple rejects, which I took to class and never ended up developing.  The winner, however, was the single feather.  I loved the shape of it, and knew all the little details would show through, but I didn’t want to have a whole bunch of really simple, single, objects.  So against my normal practice, I tried to draw a realistic yet simplified representation of the feather in a mirrored drawing.  I’m so glad I did, because that one (and its counterpart) ended up being my favorite.  With that, I had to organize my thoughts for the final critique, and decided to work in three sets of diptychs.  I did another mirrored object/drawing combination, and another complicated doodle.  I even messed with my simple objects, and ended up with the three sets you see above.

Off to the dark room I went, and I couldn’t have been happier.  MICA has a great darkroom, yet I hadn’t had the chance to get in there, or the introduction of how their set up works.  It felt great getting back in there and working with all the chemicals and enlargers again.  I love the smell.  I know, a little weird maybe, but I love it.

After a few practice exposures, everything was going well, and I’m really happy with the results I got.  I knew how the objects would react from previous projects, but wasn’t sure how the drawings would turn out.  I was just using a fine point sharpie on a transparency sheet, but it worked really well!  I thought for sure the light would shine through pretty easily, but the sharpie made a surprisingly strong barrier.  So with the darkroom bug biting me again, here are my “shadow” images.  Can’t wait to work with this some more, and I’m happy to say this class has had me in the darkroom for some other projects already.  Enjoy!

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Week 25: Diptych/Triptych

I’ve been looking forward to this week!  Mostly because some of my favorite photographs have been parts of diptychs and triptychs.  That’s the theme for this week: diptych, a set of two images, or triptych, a set of three images.

It’s funny, when I started going back to school a couple of years ago (agh, that’s weird to think about!), we were constantly working in series of images.  When I would think about my photography at the time, I would say that I just had a bunch of random images, and never really thought to work in groupings.  Admittedly, I also didn’t really want to work in groups or themes, and just wanted to continue my randomness of getting various different successful shots.  Now, I can’t seem to get away from it.  I mean, come on, you’ve seen my blog (hopefully — if not, then explore!), it’s like a struggle for me to only post one image when working through these themes and topics.  It seems like everything I do is in a group, and I have to say I miss the random good image that can just stand alone.  But back to topic, I’m still happy that I get to work like this again.

Aside from working pretty much consistently with groups of images through school, there were a couple of projects where I worked with diptychs and triptychs.  I didn’t realize it when I did it the frist time, but my very first project which consisted of the photograms that I did, I also had a single rose which I used, and produced an image, as well as an inverted image.  I loved the simplicity, as well as the ying and yang qualities they had, so I always placed the two together.  Later on, I was actually assigned a project where the goal was to come up with a set of two images (diptych! — which I still didn’t realize it was call that then).  The images were supposed to be either opposites, or around a related theme, so clearly, I went with the opposite theme.  When you’re not getting a glimpse into my nature photography and I’m working on a personal project, I work a lot with conflict and emotions; inner turmoil, regrets, and memories.

The “opposite project”, as my professor and I named it, were my favorite images.  That is, until the next semester, when I audited the class and got to do a whole bunch of fun, experimental things, like my double exposures.  During my first semester final, this girl appeared on that last day of class, images on the wall ready for critique, and I had no idea who she was.  Turns out she was auditing the class at that time, and was working on a much more flexible schedule.  She had completed some pretty interesting images, one of which was a double exposure.  The only thing I’m sad I missed out on was having a nude model in-class; apparently that was discontinued during the semester prior to my arrival.  This girl was lucky enough to have one, and completed a double exposure of abstracted model photographs and flowers.  The images really stuck with me, and I couldn’t wait for a chance to do something like that…eventhough it was the end of the semester, and I was clearly going to have to wait a good amount of time.  So when I got through my first two classes and got my first assignment of “the concept” during the audited class, I used that to my advantage.  “Just come up with a concept, something conceptual” was along the lines of what I was told, so of course, you know I struggled for a while with that broadness.  Finally, I had an idea, and there was a chance to do my double exposures.  Working with old photographs that my mother took during my childhood which I either used the existing negatives or photographed to create a new negative, along with new images in the same location of the childhood images, I created my “now and never again” project.  One part memories, one part remorse for how much things have changed, and a pinch of sadness, you know, to stay inline with my usual process, I worked for weeks to combine the two images seamlessly, and show how the happy memories from childhood are gone, the places have changed, and many of them are in poor condition.  Even though I created a set of five images, I selected three to be presented as a triptych (also, not knowing that was a thing.  I need to stop living under this rock apparently…).

So, while I’m constantly looking for new things to do as I work through this 52 week challenge, I think I’m going to stick with some of the themes I love working with as I complete these images.  Opposites are such a great thing, and can show a variety of concepts, thoughts, and struggles.  So enjoy my previous works while I think of some new ideas (and sorry, not the best quality scans on some of these)!

Now and Never Again

Conflicted Life and Death

Week 20: Secret

Secrets….they’re interesting little things, aren’t they?  Some can be of a good nature, calling themselves surprises and providing a little mystery to life and bringing joy.  Some can be unexpected events, curveballs, and the things camouflaged in everyday life, being much more esoteric in nature.  In the same respect, secrets can be deceiving, perhaps calling themselves lies at times, and causing harm to others, as well as it’s keeper.  It’s incredible how one little word has so many meanings.  Even more incredible is that keeping a secret is an action which can have so many different reactions.  Will I divulge some of my “secrets” with this week’s theme?  I suppose you’ll just have to wait and see…

I find myself returning to a few themes in my photography, one of which is love.  However, I never cover “love” in a conventional way.  Sure, you can capture some really darling images of a couple walking hand-in-hand down a beach at sunset, but that’s not the point of view which I like to take.  I often look at love from the point of longing, wanting, desires, loss, and more recently, the unrequited.  Unrequited love is really quite a different type of love all on its own, and an incredible secret.  In examining emotions one would feel while experiencing it, I’ve tried to capture some images where the “lover’s” pain is evident.  Seemingly meaningless actions by the beloved can have such a great effect on the lover, and they may never know they’re causing this snowball of internal emotions.  There’s turmoil, euphoria, despair, obsession, and devotion swirling within one being on a constant basis, all the while another lives their life completely oblivious to it all.  Hopelessly hopeful.  Seemingly meaningless actions are being over analyzed, bringing false hope, while other meaningless actions bring incredible depression, convincing the lover that they will never have a chance to be with their beloved.

One of my favorite images of such emotions is derived from a meaningless action completed by another. A photocopied image of someone’s hand.  For most, they would just think someone was being a slacker at work, and entertaining themself with the copier.  From the perspective of the unrequited, however, it could be a countless number of things: a sign, a message, a chance to hold something which they may never have a chance to hold in reality — an extended hand.  Now, trust, I have control of my actions, and am not an irrational, obsessive person, but when I received this photocopy, and really started thinking about it, I couldn’t help but to pose as the unrequited.  Coincidentally, this occurred just after completing my first darkroom experience with photograms.  Since, as a class, we worked on photograms on the same day, which just so happened to be Valentine’s Day, I focused on an unrequited love theme for those images as well.  I think as a group, though they are visually very different, the meanings and intentions behind the images work very well together.  One expressing the physical, and the others expressing the emotional, imaginary, dreamy state which those hiding the secret of love may feel.  So as I think of another way to tell a secret for this week, enjoy these examples of the greatest secret of all; the unrequited love.

Cyanotypes!

The sun is shining away on this windy winter day, and you know what that means?  Cyanotypes!  I’ve been waiting for a day like this, and I’m happy to say that I’ve made good use of it.

Cyanotypes are probably some of my favorite things to do.  I don’t have the accessibility to a darkroom at the moment, as well as don’t have the space for it, so it lets me feel like I’m still doing some “film” development, kinda.  I was introduced to this process during the last photography class I took at school.  I was auditing the class, since they didn’t offer Photography III, and the professor gave me some pretty interesting projects, one of which was alternative processes.  I started off doing botanicals, and using some old book pages she had, and fell in love with it!

If you don’t know what cyanotypes are, you should look in to it!  Wikipedia does a good job of explaining it, but I’ll give you the quick and dirty on my process.  Cyanotype is a contact photographic process, which creates really lovely blue images.  To begin, you mix an equal part of two chemicals: ammonium iron citrate and potassium ferricyanide.  Yeah, cyanide.  Don’t worry though, it’s not going to kill you.  Though it is mildly toxic, I’ve never had any problems with it, and to be honest, I’m not particularly careful with it when using it — I’ve gotten it on my hands and constantly have my hands in the wash, and I’m still here!  I use a great kit from Photographers’ Formulary, where you don’t have to do any actually mixing of chemicals, and just combine “solution a” with “solution b”.  So easy.

Once you mix the chemicals, while in a darkened room treat your surface to make it photosensitive.  I personally use watercolor paper, and have had some great results.  It has great durability, and holds on to the emulsion well once you’ve completed your print.  One of my other favorite things to use are book pages, but they are much more fragile, so be careful.  You can use pretty much anything, as long as it is able to absorb the chemical solution — various papers, cloth, untreated canvases — so be creative!  Allow the treated surface to dry completely, I recommend even leaving it over night in a dark environment, and then you’re ready!  Your dried surface is going to be a light, almost lime green color when you treat it, but no worries, it will turn blue at the end!

Like I said earlier, it’s a contact printing process, so you could do either one of two things.  You can create your own negative, or for smaller prints, contact sheet style printing, or using medium format film, you can use actual negatives, and press it along with the paper between glass.  To make it simple, I just take apart a picture frame, using the back and the glass, and then secure the pieces together with paperclips or binder clips.  You want to make sure you have a good contact on your negative, otherwise you’ll end up with a fogged image, and lose a lot of your details.  I use Inkpress Media Transparency Film to create 8 1/2x 11″ negatives, and have had great results….when I follow the directions and print on the right side of the transparency!  They’re a little pricy, but super convenient in that I can just use my inkjet printer to make whatever negative I like!  Make sure you prep your image before printing as well.  Having strong contrast and clarity, as well as making a positive of your image through a photo editing program will ensure you get a good print.  The other thing you can do it treat your surface like a photogram, and place an object directly on top of your paper to create an image.  I still use glass when using objects, since I use flowers, leaves, etc., and in doing so, I’ve noticed you get a better outcome.

Exposure times will vary since, well, the weather is never the same from one day to another, and the sun’s position in the sky will move as you’re making your print.  I prefer to wait for a nice, clear sunny day, which keeps my exposure times anywhere from the 12-15 minute range.  You can gauge your exposure times by looking at your surface while in the light.  It will change from a light green, to a dark green, almost blackish tone.  Once you’ve reached your desired exposure, just rinse the print in cold running water.  I like to fully submerge my prints and gently agitate them prior to actually rising them.  The emulsion is delicate, so if you rinse too quickly, you’re going to wash your print away 😦 — so sad, I’ve totally done it.  You’ll see your print develop right before your eyes, changing from that weird dark greenish hue to an intense tone of blue with white highlights.  Rinse your print completely, so you don’t see any blue residue dripping from your paper and the water runs clear, and you’re finished!  Just lay it flat to dry and voila, you’re a cyanotype expert.

So there you have it!  I really love this process, and am thankful that I had a professor who thought outside the box and introduced me to this.  Check out my final prints below.  I made a couple of extras, so I may try my hand at toning them to change the color.  Stay tuned!