Cyan­otypes

The Iowa Review - - CONTENTS - Noah Doely

The pho­to­graphs in this se­ries are printed as cyan­otypes: a pho­to­graphic process in­vented in 1842 by the Eng­lish sci­en­tist and as­tronomer Sir John Her­schel. I’ve long been in­ter­ested in the ways that dif­fer­ent forms of pho­tog­ra­phy from dif­fer­ent eras me­di­ate and trans­form the sub­ject mat­ter they de­pict—in the case of cyan­otypes, how they im­merse the viewer in en­vi­rons of a dis­tinct Prus­sian blue. One of my pri­mary in­ter­ests within this se­ries is the re­la­tion­ship be­tween color and per­cep­tion. I’m ex­plor­ing how the color blue, as well as the his­tor­i­cal con­no­ta­tions of the cyan­otype process, sub­vert, en­hance, cam­ou­flage, or oth­er­wise al­ter how an im­age’s con­tent is per­ceived. The im­ages I cre­ate com­bine straight­for­ward pho­tog­ra­phy, phys­i­cally con­structed tableaux, and dig­i­tal ma­nip­u­la­tion, which I then con­tact­print by ex­pos­ing chem­istry-coated pa­per to light through the inkjet neg­a­tives. I use im­agery from an ar­ray of time pe­ri­ods, often se­lect­ing sub­ject mat­ter for which color is piv­otal. One ex­am­ple is the im­age of my recre­ation of a cyanome­ter: a de­vice in­vented in 1789 by Swiss physi­cist Ho­race-béné­dict de Saus­sure used to mea­sure the blue­ness of the sky.

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