Palladium Printing

Since I’ve been just terrible at keeping up with my 2016 challenge, I though I would get myself back on track by posting another project that I did in my Alternative Photography class this semester.  I’m about to take off to Florida again, so don’t worry, I’ll have plenty of new pictures, and I’m sure that will motivate me to get back into the swing of things!

Palladium printing.  Doesn’t that just sound yummy?  I love all of these old processes, and I’m so thankful that I was able to try out so many of them.  This was a particularly interesting demonstration/project, because we actually had a guest speaker/palladium printing expert come in and spend the class with us.  Robert Kozma is an amazing photographer, and it was great to have a talk, demonstration, and time to work with him.  We had a chance to view a wide variety of his work, which was truly beautiful; it’s clear that he has an immense understanding of the medium.  His work had a richness and crispness, while maintaining a warmth that simply made me fall in love with yet another process.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a website for him, but click around on my google search here if you’re interested in browsing around through various bits of his portfolio.  It’s well worth it.

This was quite the extensive class session, and one of the only times I would say that the allotted six hours was not enough.  I know, I must be joking, right?  But with trying to teach about 20 people a new process, coat paper, let it dry, expose, develop, and then give it another try, the time pretty much flew by.  Luckily, my friend and I were one of the first ones to get started, hence, one of the few who were actually able to test things out and make more than one or two prints.  With that, I have three of the same print.  It’s something that I’m not always fond of doing, since I was surprisingly happy with the first version, but I’m glad that I did it for this process.  We made some adjustments to the mixture of all the different chemistry involved, double coated some sheets of paper, diluted some mixtures with water, and changed exposure times.  It’s quite interesting just how different your print will show up with just minor changes to these things.  I also have one single print, which was just an experiment with a piece of paper which we didn’t finish coating.  It’s a little lighter than I would like, but I’m glad I tried it out anyways.  Aside from this being an expensive material to waste, which I hate doing, it’s great to see a more drastic variation as a result of chemistry application.

The photos themselves were taken the last time I was in Florida.  My friend and I always like to try and venture out to interesting little (free) places, and we stumbled upon Lake Eola.  I wasn’t quite a fan of the idea of just going to a lake that was clearly amidst a bunch of office buildings in the middle of Orlando, but I was intrigued by the fact that there was supposedly a ton of swans at this lake.  I have to say, I was not disappointed.  There were tons of swans!  As soon as you enter the park, they’re lounging in the grass and bushes, swimming in the lake, and are not shy about being around people, or even coming up to you.  With that, I was able to get some pretty good close up photos of them, as well as the ducks and other birds at the park.  If you’re ever in the area, and want a relaxing place to hang out an enjoy the sights, I would recommend it.

So here are my prints, aka, four more reasons why I want to take this class again!  I’m in love with them all for different reasons, so you be the judge.  Which one wins out?  Enjoy!

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Van Dyke

Well, it looks like I’ve taken too deep of a breath while relaxing after this semester, and have fallen off the grid a little with my blog.  Sorry!  So to make up for it a little, I thought I would share some of my favorite photographs from my alternative processes class this semester.

I have to say, if I haven’t already, this was my favorite class I took this semester, possibly my favorite that I will take while at MICA.  Just having the resources to learn about different processes, and then not having to buy the chemicals and try to deal with them in my less than acceptable home set up was pretty amazing.  I’m considering auditing this class again because I loved it so much, but we’ll see — the rest of my “MICA career” seems like it’s going to be a little crazy.

One of the things we learned about was the Van Dyke process.  I’ve experimented with a similar process in the past, Kallitype, which I came to learn is basically the same process, with just a slight difference in chemistry.  At least I had a little heads up with what I was going to be working with, which was good.  This chemistry is nothing to mess with — I messed up before, luckily just a little, but my hands were stained brown in little spots for about a week.  Come to find out, it can last much longer than that, so I got off easy.

Since I was stuck on the nature theme for this class, I thought about some old photos that I’ve shown you guys before, that I did during a still life exercise for my Digital I class last semester.  I’ve been in love with these photos since then, and I was happy to try them out in a different process.  I feel like when I do alternative process printing, I have a different aesthetic that I go for.  I like the more “oddities” and “antique” looking subjects.  Nature always works, too, but I’m really happy when I can combine the two, and I feel like these photos got it.  Maybe that’s why I like them so much.

Aside from these being my favorites, this process also worked like a charm in the class.  I had a little trouble with the cyanotype processing, which was disappointing, and palladium (which I’ll show you soon!) was a really time consuming process, which took a little of the fun out of it.  With the light boxes in class, these worked quick, and turned out great.  I used Arches Cover paper, and really enjoy the result I got from it.  There is a bit of a waiting process, if you’re thinking of trying this out and don’t like waiting.  Per suggestions made by my professor, it’s best to double coat your paper, waiting at least a day or two between coats, and then waiting an additional few days before printing.  This allows the paper to really absorb the chemistry, and will provide you with a wide range of tones once you get to printing.  So I coated during one class, had a class mate do the second coat a few days later, and printed the following week.  I’m not patient, but if that was the key to these, I guess I’ll just have to get used to waiting when I try this again.

So here they are!  Let me know what you think.  I’m in love with them, and can’t wait to do some more.  Maybe I can sneak in over the summer and do some printing?  I may just have to find out if that’s a possibility.  Enjoy!

Week 16: Portrait – Movement

Ah, finally, I can breathe.  Did you miss me?  Just as I thought I was going to be able to stay on top of things, finals struck with an iron fist, and things got crazy.  I’m happy to say, however, that I survived, and I’m happy with all of the finals I completed.  Now, I’m just anxiously awaiting my grades…for what seems like an eternity.  But I’m free!

Even with falling behind, I’m happy to say that again, I’ve wound up making something for class that completely fits in with this challenge.  Is that cheating?  I’m gonna go with no 🙂

So for my Alternative Photography class, I’ve been making work that’s about nature the whole semester (don’t worry, I’ll share it with you soon).  As a final project, I really wanted to print larger than the typical 8 1/2″ x 11″ negatives that we’ve been printing, but I knew I had to do something great to make a single print final worthy.  So instead of just taking some photos of flowers or birds, or whatever I’ve been working with, I decided to photograph “mother nature”.  I like how inspired I’ve been feeling these last few weeks.  Cheesy sounding, I know, but it’s been great letting the ideas flow.  So I had this picture in my mind of how I wanted to photograph “her”, and off I went.

Another perk experienced for these finals — I had tons of models!  It was amazing.  Between the three classes, I had eight, one of which, Brittany, I used for this project.  We went to my favorite little stream that I’ve used on a few other occasions, and dressed in white, with curly hair, and the sun setting, it was everything I wanted….almost.

We started shooting, and something just wasn’t quite right.  We tried different angles, and played with the light, but it just wasn’t what I was thinking.  The rocks were killing our feet this time, so we decided that we should just pack up — I had enough to work with, although it wasn’t perfect.  For some reason, she stayed in the water while I got out, and when I turned around to see why she was still standing in the same place, it was perfect – -the sun was setting nearly directly behind her, the air was glowing in that yellow light, and I knew that was it!  So she splashed in the water, again, as she had been before, and after a few composites of splashes, I had this: exactly what I was thinking.

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I would have loved to be finished at this point, to be honest, but I had a lot more work to do.  At least I’m excited about this process, regardless of how busy and crazy finals are.  Originally, I wanted to do a duo-tone, combining cyanotype with Van Dyke, but, nothing is ever easy with me! After a couple of test prints at school, I couldn’t get the first step, cyanotype, to work, so I decided to take everything home, and do it the old fashioned way; with sunlight.

Did I mention the other struggle of printing this image?  Large.  When dealing with 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheets of transparencies, that means you’re going to have to piece a bunch together to get a big image.  In this case, I ended up working with 9 negatives to create this one image, lined up, side by side, over and over again, trying to make this as seamless as possible. Luckily, with the help of my boss at the framing shop, I was able to get a large piece of glass and foam core to make things a little easier, but it was still a difficult task.  So on the one sunny day we had last week, outside I ran, trying as quickly as I could to get this complicated negative all lined up.

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baking in the sunshine 🙂

A successful batch of three prints done and on to the next phase.  Since my original idea of duo-tone wasn’t possible at home, I decided to go with another method; toning.  After seeing the prints, I really didn’t want to tone them, because some of the blues and highlights turned out so great, but I thought I should since that’s what I told my professor I was doing.   I’ve done some work with tea toning in the past, but he suggested trying coffee, so I thought what better time to try something new.  After having tried both now, I have to say, I should have stuck with something I tried before, because this coffee method took forever.  However, it did give me the look that I was going for, well, for the most part.  In case you’re wondering how it all works, honestly, there’s a million different methods and toners you can use.  In this case, I went with instant coffee in warm/hot-ish water.  After a pre-soak, I left the print in the coffee bath for about an hour.  After it wasn’t reaching the tone I wanted, I decided to bleach the print, using actual bleach diluted in water.  This isn’t the preferred method of bleaching, because it eats through the paper if you leave it for too long, but it’s what I had, and it works if you keep an eye on it.  So after that was lightened,  I put the print in another coffee bath for about an hour, and there you have it.

I love the strange color that I got from this whole coffee/bleaching process, but I’m also glad that I left a few of the prints alone.  Here’s both of them, so you can tell me, which do you prefer?  I’m still undecided.  Enjoy 🙂

 

Driven to Abstraction

Well, I’m happy to say that I’ll be showing a few more pieces in another exhibition!  It seems like things for these photos just fell right into place.  They’re actually from a project that I did earlier in the semester, centered around “the decisive moment” and composite images.  I was at such a loss for what to do with this project, and I tried a million things.  Finally, I decided to do something a little bit different.  So I started experimenting with color, and light, and dropping bits of food coloring and milk (yuck) into a small fish tank that I have.  After about 700 photos, yes, count ’em, seven-zero-zero, I had enough photos which had compositions, colors, and clarity that I was happy with, and started piecing them together.

Once the editing and construction of these images started, I really tried to hone in on making them representational of something more than just color and movement.  The end result was five images that express different emotions and feelings, represented as my imagining of chemical reactions which take pace when these feeling occur.  They were far more abstract than anything I’ve done before, but these were a lot of fun to work on.  The only thing that was a little disappointing about this whole process was the critique.  While people liked them, and said they were “visually pleasing and interesting”, I expected a little more from a group of students at such an open-minded art school.  They totally didn’t get it.  I had to explain it, thoroughly, and then some people still weren’t seeing it.  At least my professor was on my side; he literally had to break it down to them and say hey, even though these are abstract, they’re still valid, and you should critique them the same way you would any other representational photo.  Nice try, the class was still a little stubborn, but oh well.  In the end, I’m happy with the images I produced, and apparently, other people are too!  So here are the three images that will be on display:

The show is put on by the City of Bowie Arts Committee, and will be on display at the Bowie City Hall from April 23rd through June 18th.  I’m super excited to have my work in another show, and can’t wait to see all of the other work it will be on display with.  So if you’re in the area during that time, you should stop by and see it, or even buy something!  And if you’re curious as to what the other two pieces were for the project, here they are.  Enjoy!

Week 15: Rebirth

Can you believe it?!  I’m all caught up on this challenge!  Who’d a thunk that while amidst the planning of finals and and completing projects that this would be the time I caught up, but here I am.  And I couldn’t be happier to be caught up with a different theme or photo.

Rebirth.  It can mean so many different things in so many different contexts.  It’s a word that has had a particular significance to me over the past two years, so I’m always happy to do some work surrounding this theme.  And even better, it coincided with a project that I was competing for class.  You know I love it when I can hit two birds with one stone!

The project that we had for class surrounded the idea of “constructed reality”, or tableau photography — creating a scene, world, scenario which does not occur naturally, but in a strange way, could possibly happen.  Playing with the border between truth and fiction.  That’s the best explanation I can give for this, because honestly, I had a terrible time thinking of something to do for this project.  The examples my professor gave the class were vast, which was equally helpful and harmful.  Just as I thought I was getting a grasp on what he was asking for, a whole other group of artists would come up which were completely different, and I would be thrown off again.  Don’t get me wrong, I always appreciate the broad overview of example artists he shows us — they have amazing work.  Some of my favorites, which you should go check out, were Duane Michaels, David Hockney, and (this one’s a little creepy) Joel-Peter Witkin.  Three very different styles, three very different conceptual minds, and three equally awesome artists.  So, in wanting to emulate all of them, and not sure how one single idea could encompass that and the parameters of the assignment, I was stuck.

The night before I had to bring in “progress”, I still had nothing.  All day during my classes I was trying to think of something to do for the next day.  I had a bunch of ideas, but nothing feasible this short notice.  Ah, the blight of wanting models in my photographs.  So I dug a little deeper, and this idea came to me, finally.  It was actually something that I had thought of during one of my film photography classes, but for some reason, filed it away in my “will probably never happen” group of photography ideas.  I’m really glad I decided to drudge it up and give it a try.

This whole idea started when I first returned back to school, and was debating leaving my old job and finding something that would actually make me happy.  I wish I could say it was at one of my hardest times, and that things got better from there, but I’m just now starting the incline again.  Even then, however, I would dream about how great life could be, and what it would feel like to let all the stress and drama of my then current life behind.  Flowers and nature have always seemed like a great avenue for me to express a lot of complex ideas, and this project made good use of that.  In correlation with this feeling of wanting a new life, and now revisiting it from a perspective of “rebirth”, along with having gone through some major changes, I wanted to be able to express both the pain and beauty in changes simultaneously.

Although it may be a little unsettling to look at, I really am in love with the result I achieved.  I needed something visceral, raw, an essentially disgusting, to really describe how difficult things have been.  On the other hand, I was dreaming of a new, beautiful life, and since then, have made large strides to work towards it, and wanted an element which would exemplify that sentiment as well.  I chose to place the wound (which was incredibly, surprisingly, easy to make) on my wrist.  I think location is meaningful in itself, as many associate this type of wound with self-harm, and in a sense, living the life I was living was doing exactly that, killing me.  The flower that I chose, Star of Bethlehem, though possessing religious connotations which I didn’t not directly relate to this project, represents all of the things that I imagine this new life, or rebirth, will bring.  Hope, for a better life.  Forgiveness, to myself for not doing this sooner.  Honesty, to stay true to myself.  Innocence and Purity, for all the good, new things, untainted by my previous life.

I love it, and I’m even more excited to keep working on this type of imagery.  I’ll be extending this work for my final, so maybe you’ll see a little more of this soon, ya know, if this doesn’t gross you out too much 😉

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Another Case of The Blues

Remember when I mentioned that I was going to use some photos from my black and white landscape week to print Cyanotypes?  Well, I finally have them scanned in a ready for you!

You know I love working with cyanotypes, and it was great being able to work on some more through my class.  I mean, I didn’t even have to use my own chemistry, and I got to test out some new papers, so as photo geeky as that may sound, it was super exciting.

While I just shared a few photos before, my theme for this project was “trees”.  I looked at them from different angles and tried to show some unusual details and abstractions of a subject I work with all the time.  Of course, I used the photo of my favorite tree, because, I just love that tree.  I also took a couple close up shots of some cherry blossom trees around my house.  They had some weird textures and growths on them that I thought were really interesting when viewed from a very close range.  One of these images really makes me think of this crazy movie that we watched in one of my classes, Little Otik, because, you know, art school and crazy movies go hand-in-hand.

As for the process, things were a little different, and took some getting used to.  Can I say that I’ve been spoiled by the sun?  I’m pretty confident when printing outdoors, and took that confidence with me to class that day.  Unfortunately, the light boxes are entirely different as far as developing times, and have a few other quirks.  I kind of over exposed one print to the point where you could see the outline of where the lights were in the box…I’m not gonna show you that one, but you can take my word for it 🙂  After I got the hang of it, however, it was pretty amazing.  Amazing like…I need to figure out how to build one of these myself so I can print at home on rainy days/at night, amazing.  That’s been the only sad thing about this process for me; I’m limited to sunny days, which don’t always come often during the colder months.  This is just one more thing for me to get attached to while at school.  I guess I better appreciate the things I have access do before they’re gone.  It’ll be over sooner than I think!

So with the quirks of getting used to new things, these aren’t quite the best cyanotypes I have ever made.  I’m still pleased with them though.  It was great having a chance to do this process again, and also great to get out and visit my favorite tree 🙂  Maybe I’ll give them another go over the summer, but for now, enjoy!

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!