Why Cyanotype?

"Mercy" Toned Cyanotype

Someone asked me once why I chose to work in Cyanotype.  It took me a minute to come up with an answer – several, actually.  First, it’s cheap.  I can’t afford to work in Plat/Paladium even if I wanted to.  Second, it’s an alternative process, something I fell in love with in college.   And finally, I don’t have a darkroom!

Not to say that I don’t love the traditional black and white process.  There’s a certain magic to watching prints surface in the developer in a darkroom that I miss.  Sitting in front of a computer screen isn’t a good substitute for that.  That said, I absolutely love my digital camera and the ability to tweak my negatives in a way that darkrooms make super annoying.  I’m not the world’s best printer, to say the least.  As for the cheap part – if you’re struggling to learn lighting, digital is THE best way to learn (in my opinion.)  Nothing beats being able to compensate for a bone-headed mistake right then and there.   Since I’m not paying for film, digital is my method of learning what works and what doesn’t. 

Image: “Mercy” 8×10

Process: Cyanotype.  Digital negative printed on Canson Montval (cold press) watercolor paper.  Toned in tannic acid (Christopher James’ #3 Black Toner recipe, more or less.)  Cold press paper doesn’t scan well, so the actual image looks a good bit better than this.


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