Toning woes

Tea toned cyanotype, from the series "Doors of the dead"

It seems I learn something new every day – most often the hard way.  Apparently you cannot save a steeped tea toner more than a day or so or the potency degrades.  I lost a set of really good prints yesterday after trying (and failing) to tone them with a jug of tea toner I kept from last week. 

Now,they’re cyanotypes.   It’s cheap, right? so I can easily go reprint them and try again.  That is, I could if I wasn’t on my few pieces of paper.  I could go buy another bunch from the local art store, but they charge twice the price of Utrecht.   So instead it’s time to pull out the second best batch and hope these 4 have duplicates.

I’ve hit a depressing twist in my work this week – I can totally understand the impulse to destroy your last batch of work in a fit of anger that it’s not good enough.  I’m down to the wire here with this upcoming show.  I cannot go reshoot and reprint anything – I’m stuck with what I have.  Call it stress, but suddenly I’m scared to death that the images aren’t strong enough – the process is just plain weird – or the worst insult ever, it looks like a college project.

The only saving factor that keeps me from losing my sanity is this: I created this work for me.  I like it.  I love the process.  I didn’t do what I thought other people wanted (because in fact, most people I know think cyanotypes are ugly.)  It might not be considered fine art or good photography, but gosh darn it, it’s mine!

I stand behind my work and I think it’s good.  I cheerfully accept critiques and suggestions, but at the end of the day, this was my choice.  In a world of people who mostly think color photography > black and white > everything else,  I make the choice to paint an emulsion on paper and steep tea for my prints.


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