sun prints

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.

Cover photo of The Wild Iris, by Louise Glück

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

Three daisies
Honeysuckle branches
sun print–this one smelled so good!
daisy bouquet

SUN PRINTS USING PHOTO NEGATIVES

wildflowers in a mason jar
winter tree:reflected

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*

beautiful splinter

The moon was a beautiful
splinter last night, hanging
amber in the indigo sky,
while threads of milky purple clouds
drifted by like lazy hitchhikers
on a deserted highway.
Oh, I wanted a picture—or two—
but between arriving home
and chopping onions for soup,
leaving no time to get the camera,
the moon dropped behind the trees, 
then, slipped below the horizon,
out of reach, out of time.
If I’d known—
     if I’d known,
I would’ve stood
in her light a little longer,
gazed more fully, breathed more deeply,
taking in the angled crescent
nodding luminous
in the muted night. I carry
it now, a photograph in my mind,
as I do all beautiful things.

©stephanie g pepper, 2020

sister moon, 10/8/2021
photo by: stephanie pepper, 2021

“Get Back”, Linda McCartney, and finding a new art

“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.

Simple subjects.

–a winter rose.

–scattered maples leaves on a wooden walkway.

–foxgloves.

Utterly breathtaking.

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.

My first successful attempt. Thistle field on 9×12 watercolor paper.
Trumpet creeper on a wooden bridge. 9×12 watercolor paper.
Reaching for the sun. 9×12 watercolor paper.
Tufted titmouse. 6×9 watercolor paper
Milk thistle. 9×12 watercolor paper. Perhaps my favorite piece so far. That wonderful rainbow of color wasn’t present in the original photo, but appeared in printing. The transfer process really brought it out.

And there is my new art.