Photo In­sight

Print­mak­ing stu­dent, Jill Flower, headed to the beach for her unique ap­proach to cyan­otype print­ing

Amateur Photographer - - 7days -

Jill Flower’s won­der­fully unique ap­proach to cyan­otype print­ing

Jill Flower has al­ways had a pas­sion for creative vis­ual arts and crafts, and af­ter com­plet­ing a foun­da­tion course she be­gan a BA in Fine Art: Print­mak­ing. Now in her third and fi­nal year at Brighton Univer­sity, Jill is gear­ing up for her fi­nal project. In prepa­ra­tion, she has been ex­per­i­ment­ing with a va­ri­ety of print­mak­ing styles: in par­tic­u­lar, the cyan­otype process.

The images you see on this spread are ac­tu­ally sec­tions of a 33ft long print that Jill cre­ated on the beach. ‘I thought it would be fun to pro­duce a large piece of work us­ing the sun­light, found ob­jects and pro­cess­ing it in the sea.’

To cre­ate a cyan­otype, pa­per (or any other medium that can ab­sorb so­lu­tion) is coated with light-sen­si­tive chem­i­cals and dried. To cre­ate the im­age, neg­a­tives or ob­jects are placed on it be­fore be­ing exposed to UV light, ei­ther us­ing the sun or a spe­cial­ist UV light source. The item(s) that block the light will be re­vealed in white and ev­ery­thing else in blue.

Jill en­listed the help of fel­low stu­dents and tech­ni­cians to carry out her ex­per­i­ment. She bought a roll of wall­pa­per, and coated the pa­per with the light-sen­si­tive chem­i­cal one sec­tion at a time, while a friend used a hairdryer to get the dry­ing process started. It was then hung in a large-screen dry­ing cab­i­net for 30 min­utes to al­low it to dry fully.

On the day of the ex­per­i­ment the wall­pa­per was trans­ferred to the beach in a black bin liner to pre­vent it ex­pos­ing in tran­sit. With­out a plan in place, Jill and her helpers set about plac­ing ob­jects ran­domly onto the rolled out wall­pa­per. ‘A cou­ple of the stu­dents said they would like to lie on it, while oth­ers wanted to put per­sonal ob­jects on it or col­lect items from the beach. One per­son brought along some Ja­panese Ki­mono sten­cils that were placed in the mid­dle. Once we un­rolled the coated pa­per, ev­ery­one did what they wanted.’

To work out how long to ex­pose the coated wall­pa­per for, Jill had vis­ited the beach the pre­vi­ous day with a small piece of pa­per to test the process. With an es­ti­mate of 15 min­utes, Jill knew the process was go­ing to re­quire some guess­work. She said, ‘I had a rough idea, but on the day we could see the pa­per chang­ing, which helped. Peo­ple were adding bits to the com­po­si­tion at dif­fer­ent stages dur­ing the ex­po­sure too, so it was very much a “touchy feely” ex­per­i­ment.’ But the ex­per­i­ment wasn’t quite over; the next task, af­ter re­mov­ing the ob­jects, was trans­fer­ring the 33ft roll of pa­per into the sea, which proved rather chal­leng­ing. Jill and sev­eral oth­ers care­fully made their way (fully clothed) into the sea to rinse the print. ‘It was only in for a cou­ple of min­utes; we could see when it was washed. I would have kept it in for longer but even the calmest of waves made it dif­fi­cult to man­age and it was in dan­ger of break­ing up.’

Typ­i­cally, a cyan­otype needs to be rinsed in wa­ter. Jill usu­ally adds hy­dro­gen per­ox­ide to en­cour­age the blue to come up much faster. But with the sea­wa­ter just a few steps away, it made per­fect sense for Jill to de­velop her wall­pa­per there and then. ‘Sub­sti­tut­ing with the sea worked re­ally well and it re­acted ex­actly like wa­ter with hy­dro­gen per­ox­ide, as the colour came up re­ally quickly. Usu­ally the blue will strengthen as it ox­i­dises over the first 24 hours but the sea seemed to do this in one go!’

The print was then dried in the sun on the beach be­fore they re­turned with it to the univer­sity cam­pus. It had been a suc­cess­ful ex­per­i­ment. ‘ The fi­nal piece was very pleas­ing and had an un­der­wa­ter feel to it. The sea­wa­ter cre­ated a very rich blue tone, prob­a­bly due to the ef­fect of the salts.’

Hav­ing had such a suc­cess­ful out­come, Jill plans to try even more ex­per­i­ments like this one: ‘I love the idea of us­ing the en­vi­ron­ment to make art, and I love to work col­lab­o­ra­tively with peo­ple.’ Jill con­tin­ues, ‘I will re­peat the process but next time I need to plan where and how it will be dis­played, so I can give more di­rec­tion over the art­work it­self.’

With a fu­ture field trip planned to Morocco, Jill’s aim is to take some cyan­otype pa­per with her and re­turn with lots of work and ideas for in­spi­ra­tion that she can de­velop dur­ing her fi­nal year. We can’t wait to see what she does next!

Per­sonal ob­jects, items found on the beach, sten­cils and even peo­ple them­selves were ran­domly po­si­tioned on the wall­pa­per

The 33-foot print was rinsed in the sea for 15 min­utes and then dried on the beach in the sun­shine

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