Earlier this year I read Louise Glück’s collection The Wild Iris. The cover photo intrigued me as much as the poems and I searched the cover to find out about the artist.
Anna Atkins. An English botanist who lived during the 1800s.
The photo: “Iris pseudacorus,” a cyanotype ca. 1861. Cyanotypes are one of the earliest forms of photography, and Atkins was one of the first to use the process to document the plants she studied.
I read a bit about cyanotypes, and the process; tucked it away as something interesting to maybe try later.
Later has become Now.
Cyanotypes harness the power of the sun to develop photos or objects laid on paper treated with a sensitizer–a mix of Potassium Ferricyanide and Ferric Ammonium Citrate. The treated paper is painted with the sensitizer and left to dry in the dark. Once dry, objects such as flowers or leaves, or a photo negative–in my case, a digital photo that has been converted to grayscale, inverted, and printed on a transparency–is laid on the paper and placed in the sun. The painted surface turns from yellowish-green, to deep bronze as Brother Sun goes about his work. Development takes as little as three minutes. The paper is then washed in cold water and the exposed areas turn a deep Prussian blue, while the unexposed areas–areas that were covered–turn white. It’s a bit like magic, and I love it.
SUN PRINTS USING PRESSED FLOWERS
SUN PRINTS USING PHOTO NEGATIVES
I have plenty to figure out about what works and what doesn’t, but I’m having fun!
PS: I later found out Linda McCartney did sun prints, too. *hearteyes emoji*
“McCartney has a formidable acuity of gaze, but her pictures eschew the perfectionism of a photographer like him [Henri Cartier-Bresson] for something that embraces instead the informal, accidental beauty of lived experience.”
from the introduction to “The Polaroid Diaries”
After catching small glimpses of Linda Eastman (later McCartney, of course) in “The Beatles: Get Back” I became smitten with her work. And reading more, her whole way of looking at the world, whether through a lens or not. Particularly mesmerizing are her Polaroid transfers. Misty and muted; enchanted, as though what she’s seeing is just beyond the Veil.
–a winter rose.
–scattered maples leaves on a wooden walkway.
McCartney captured the extraordinary magic of ordinary moments.
Her daughter Mary says, “She’d always just be looking for everyday moments that interested her rather than manicured scenes. She wanted real moments.”
I wanted to try it myself, but I don’t have a Polaroid camera. So…I improvised.