The first challenge I faced was actually learning the cyanotype process. Initially this was very hit and miss and therefore very frustrating. I was trying to use just natural sunlight and therefore depending on the time of day, year and season meant that it was very unpredictable, which sometimes produced some lovely effects although they weren’t always what I wanted. After purchasing an ultraviolet lamp, the predictability of the images became much easier.
Once the developing method was sorted it was a case of choosing the best type of paper to use. What a palaver that was. I went through, at least, 20 different types of paper from tissue, handmade, photographic, and finally ending with watercolour paper.
Other challenges I faced included:
- Choosing the images for the process, working out the best photographs and seeing if they worked as a cyanotype image, as not all images work.
- Working out the best exposure timing for each image as most seemed to be slightly different.
- Deciding on whether to use negative or positive images for the process (they both have a distinctive beauty).
My initial idea was to use a mixture of photographic images combined with actual plant material overlaid on the image. Following advice from an advisor I shelved this idea as I was told that there wasn’t enough detail in the plant material showing through onto the final print (it was good fun playing with this idea, just frustrating that I couldn’t use it).
It took approximately 18 months to learn the process, experiment and gather enough images to take forward. Frustrating sometimes, magical a lot of the time and overall great fun and a wonderful sense of achievement. Although there were a mixture of reactions from the assessors, the overall outcome of the panel was positive.
I’m so pleased I stuck at it and worked through all the trials and tribulations. At the end of the day I really enjoyed the experimentation with the photography and the printing. The accreditation was a bonus.