Wednesday 18 November 2015

→ books in cyanotype


Some weeks ago - just in time for the World Photobook Day - I discovered Anna Atkins' 1841 cyanotypes for the Manual of British Algae: the first book to be photographically printed and illustrated. A copy of this book is kept at Horniman Museum in South London.

(both images from Horniman Museum)
Anna Atkins' prints were "photogenic drawings"(1), as she called them. Cyanotype process offered her an image reproduction technique, which escaped the need for accurate drawings. Blue background suggestive of the sea lent poetic beauty to her images of sea plants. While Atkins famously failed on scientific accuracy, she succeeded in producing an very elegant photo book.


Last year's MA Visual Arts (Book Arts) show at Camberwell College of Arts featured works by Ziyan Lu -  Unfolding Shaddow. Lu printed by setting up paper in various public locations; then impressing poetics of the flowing time into her books: abstract images were produced by the passing shadows from the objects around.


Christian Marclay is a New York based visual artist and composer whose innovative work explores the juxtaposition between sound recording, photography, video and film. In 2011, he published Cyanotypes, for which he used drawings of unwound the spools of old cassette tapes. Often using multiple exposures, Marclay created a labyrinth of lines, all tracing a distinct musical history that becomes abstracted, or at least estranged, on paper.

(images from GRAPHICSTUDIO)


In 2011 Ellen Ziegler produced an  artists' book, as she was grieving a sudden loss of her boyfriend. "Imbue” is a sheaf of abstract chemically-altered cyanotype prints inscribed with a crow-quill pen, the words chemically bleached out of the deep blue background. The poems by Patti Smith & Frances McCue reach the sorrowing depths of beautiful and ferocious grief.

(images from Ellen Ziegler website)

Vedos Project at Satakunta University of Applied Sciences / School of Fine Art Kankaanpää in Finland unites artists and teachers interested in studying and practising alternative printing processes in photography and printmaking. Their very informative webpage gives a fascinating insight into the processes, including paper and tinting tests.

(images from Vedos Project)

(1) Henisch, Heinz (1994) The Photographic Experience, 1839-1914: Images and Attitudes, University Park, Pa. : Pennsylvania State University Press. p317.

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