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Posts Tagged ‘cyanotype

CYANOTYPE: Working the ‘blues’ in Greece

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A cyanotype print on rice paper hung out to dry on Skopelos

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The azure blue of the Aegean Sea perfectly matches the prussian blue of the historic process cyanotype. The ancient stories of Ulysses and Jason’s Argonauts lend themselves to the contemporary narratives that can be made through photography and the photobook. In May we sought to explore these creative possibilities through a collaborative workshop coordinated by artist Steph Bolt and Skopelos Works on Paper on the island of Skopelos located in the Sporades north-east of Athens.

 

Six participants worked with us over a two-week program of structured lectures, practical sessions and photo forays to explore the possibilities for image taking and art making on the island. Staying in the main town on the island we worked out of the purpose-built printmaking studio with a view out over rocky headlands, distant islands, blue waters and skies. The studio sits atop of the town next to the remains of a castle with steps and paved pathways leading to the harbour and the Paralia. Tourism is a significant industry for the island however its impact does not destroy a feeling of being within an authentic experience of Greece.

 

The workshops started with breakfast daily at 8.30am with a studio start at 9.00am. By 2.30pm the formal program finished enabling personal exploration of the diverse subject matter available. Everyday participant’s day concluded in the restaurants of the Paralia partaking in the culinary delights of rustic Greek food supported by ouzo, retsina and aspro krasi (white wine). We ate fantastic squid, octopus, anchovies, little fishes, rabbit, goat, traditional foraged foods like the succulent kritima, local cheeses, Skopelos pies and gyros. Some members of the group formed relationships with the restaurateurs and towards the end of each meal extra wine and special desserts were presented as gifts by the host.

At regular intervals in the program Steph and her husband Robin took us on photo adventures: to the ancient graves at Sendoukia for sunrise, the Roman bathhouse ruins of Loutraki, the hillside town of Glossa and the classic white rocky cliffs and beaches of the island. The island is also famous for providing the setting for the Bronson and Streep film, Mama Mia so we visited the famous church on the rock Agios Ioannis. As part of most of these forays we had more opportunities to dine in tavernas, coffee shops and seaside restaurants.

Agios Ioannis

Key to the program was the concept of ‘place-making’, that is making photographs and forming them into themes and photo-essays that told of the personal experience of place by the photographer. The process of the cyanotype was explored employing traditional ‘shadow’ imprint of objects collected from the island to some very experimental work with multiple materials and exposures and double-sided printing. We worked not only with art papers but also with rice paper, various cloth materials event kitchen paper towelling. We had also gathered some special objects like a range Greek laces and linens, local rocks and a diverse range of plant material. Connecting direct photography with the cyanotype process was achieved on-site by the making of enlarged inkjet negatives.

Photobooks were developed at first as mini-book projects that could lead to online projects with MomentoPro software. MomentoPro supported the project by accrediting our program as part of the ‘Club’ services giving the participants 40% discount on their first book and 10% on each of their future books.

A local cat keeps Gail amused while she exposes a cyanotype

The participants were accommodated near the studio at the top of the town – one group had extensive views of the Aegean Sea sunrise with the other group overlooking the town. As mentioned earlier the distance to the shops and restaurants in the harbour required the negotiation of several hundred bespoke steps of local stone and concrete all with their leading edge painted white. The steps meandered past mainly two storied whitewashed houses with ornate doors and grilles. Ancient churches some built with reclaimed stones from other building provided an experience of place that was quite memorable. Coming home from shopping or dinner meant a steep climb up through the paths, sometime dodging motorcycles although many steps are so narrow that even they are footpaths alone. On one early evening return we encountered a church group with candles being led in a song procession with a Greek Orthodox priest leading the way – a memorable moment indeed.

The weather was very changeable requiring some program shuffles, as cyanotypes are direct sun exposures for many minutes. Ah! Today is sunny – we’ll make cyanotypes then… Once participants grasped the technique each took the process in their own directions. Many sophisticated books were made based on other workshop classes in book binding and finishing. Some went BIG making full sheet (55x76cm) cyanotypes.

Morning review

At the beginning of each workday a review of the previous activities was undertaken. The specific needs of each participant could be covered and ideas shared.

On the final day each photographer presented their best work – what an amazing body of work that represented – although within hours each had said their goodbyes and had caught ferries off the island and were flying homeward. We were all jealous of Steph and Robin who have a house in the town and stay there for about half the year. Their knowledge of the island and networking with island people was invaluable for the success of the workshop. Works were shared and a folio set of eight small books were made in multiple so everyone ended up with a memento from each of other individual experiences …

All of us were touched by something special on the island – our photographs and books act as evidence of experience but also a touchstone to relive and share those experiences…

 

Here are some photos of the final presentations…

 

 

Copyright in the text and all photographs are the copyright of Doug Spowart+Victoria Cooper unless otherwise indicated. The copyright of the artworks is held by the artists.

 

 

 

 

 

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FIELD STUDIES INTERNATIONAL 2016: Our contribution

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Signing the Field Studies 2016 contribution

Signing the Field Studies 2016 contribution

 

We have been busy the last few days completing our contribution to the 2016 Field Study International report project. Led by David Dellafiora in Geelong the Field Study project is now in it’s 22nd year. Field Study Report contributions are called emanations and can include all kinds of things including: ‘documentations of performances, actions and exhibitions, tracts, rants, instructions, manifestoes, reflections and experiments.’ They are a mashup of Fluxus, DaDa, Surrealist inspired, zine-ish paste-up, rubber stamps, torn up letter ransom notes and concrete poetry. The Field Study Report becomes a snapshot of artistic, social and/or political commentary at the time of its publication.

 

Our submission for 2016 is a commentary on our present nomadic lifestyle. Since moving from Toowoomba 2½ years ago we have been house-sitting, doing artists in residence projects, staying with friends and renting – we have lived in approximately 15 places.

For our submission we made a diptych of original cyanotype images recently while staying on the beach at Wooli. One print represents a starry night above a line of houses. The other print is a selection of of different keys –referencing all the houses we have stayed in. The two cyanotype prints were copied, scaled and arranged on the one sheet with the captions: ‘Keys to the homes where we have lived …’ and, ‘A Field Study Emanation for 2016 by Victoria Cooper + Doug Spowart’.

Each A5 print is numbered and signed and the edition is 100. Each contributor gets a copy of the assembled works and some copies are sold to support the project and the group that helps make it happen.

 

Cooper+Spowart Field Studies 2016 contribution

Cooper+Spowart Field Study 2016 contribution

 

Submissions for 2016 are now closed however, get ready for 2017. For more information about Field Study and other projects see: https://daviddellafiora.blogspot.com.au/

About Field Study:

Field Study began in 1993 as a way of reclaiming the negative spaces between art and life. Activities stemming from Field Study are emanations and group emanations are manifestations. Field Study sees each work as a manifestation of a collective spirit. Everyone is welcome to become a member of Field Study, irrespective of their arts practice, and contribute to the Field Report. Field Study also produces the assembling publications WIPE and ReSite, and, in collaboration with Karingal, KART.

 

An earlier WOTWEDID Blog post has more detail… Check it out:

https://wotwedid.com/2013/01/05/field-study-international-our-contribution/

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WORLD PHOTOBOOK DAY – The Photobook Club Brisbane events

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WPD Poster

WPD Poster

 

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For photobook people the 14th of October is World Photobook Day (WPD) and celebrations worldwide are coordinated through the Photobook Club group. On this day in 1843, the British Library catalogued Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions by Anna Atkins, and is therefore considered historically significant as the first official record of a published photobook. In 2013 Victoria Cooper and I organised an event in Toowoomba. This year as part of my Siganto Foundation Artists’ Book Research Fellowship we arranged two events to take place at The Edge facility that is part of the SLQ.

 

World Photobook Day 2014 - Photo Doug Spowart - Photobook Club event Brisbane @ The E

The QCP WPB event

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The first event was arranged for Queensland Centre for Photography members to view contemporary photobooks, artists’ books, photo-zines and photo-papers from our collection. Around 30 publications, mainly by Australian photographers and artists, were presented to a group of around 18 participants. This selection included two books, Ying Ang’s Gold Coast and John Elliott’s Ju Raku En, which were launched only in the last few weeks. Staff members from the Australian Library of Art attended this opportunity to view examples of this emergent book genre.

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With Ying Ang's Gold Coast

With Ying Ang’s Gold Coast

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The main Photobook Club WPD event took place in the evening and was attended by around 24 participants. Each brought along their favourite photobook to share and discuss with their fellow attendees. The oldest book presented was a photographic portrait book from the 1860s, and the more recent books included, W Eugene Smith’s The BIG Book, Spada’s Gomorrah Girl, and Spottorno’s PIGS. Many participants contributed their own print on demand books, or bespoke handmade artists’ books thereby representing the spectrum of the photo and the book.

A special part of the evening WPD event was a presentation by Dr Gael E. Phillips about Anna Atkins, her family and motivations for her cyanotype work. Phillips, a local Brisbane resident, is a distant cousin of Atkins shared her extensive research of this significant family connection. The assembled group were presented with the fascinating story of Anna Atkins (‘Anna Children’ – her maiden name), her father – George, relatives and networks in photography, science and society in nineteenth century England. Two attendees Dr Marcel Saffier and Sandy Barrie both significant photo historians showed a strong interest in Phillip’s research and talk.

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Gael makes her Anna Atkins presentation

Gael makes her Anna Atkins presentation

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Apart from the two events we curated this year, two new South-East Queensland organisers also presented WPD events. This provides evidence that there is a strong interest in seeing, talking about, publishing and collecting photobooks.

As part of my Fellowship activities I’m scheduling further events to keep the interest in his research growing, and to promote a greater awareness of the significant resource of ‘the photograph and the book’ held by the State Library of Queensland.

Keep in touch…    Doug Spowart.

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Anna Atkins-Portrait 1861

Anna Atkins-Portrait 1861

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What follows is a precis of Dr Phillips’ presentation:

Anna Atkins (1799-1871) is now recognised as being the first person to publish a book using a photographic technique. This recognition has come late but is, I think, largely due to the work of Prof Larry Schaaf. My cousins, Jean Doggett, Elizabeth Parkes and I were also doing similar research at the same time because of a family link with the Children family. The Children family have been long established in Kent and trace their family back to Simon a Children in 1370.

Anna Atkins was born, Anna Children, her mother dying when she was a few months old, but she grew up in a wealthy household surrounded by family friends who included many of the great Gentlemen Scientists of the Regency period and later. These included Sir Humphry Davy, Dr W H Wollaston, Sir Joseph Banks, the Herschels and William Henry Fox Talbot. Her father, John George Children, was a well known scientist in the first half of the nineteenth century and his publications include descriptions of the largest electrical battery ever built, which he and his father constructed in their own laboratory at their home, Ferox Hall, in Tonbridge.

Following the failure of the Tonbridge Bank, George Children, Anna’s grandfather, was bankrupted. His properties were sold to pay the creditors of the bank. His son, John George Children, obtained a position at the British Museum, and appears in the painting of the Temporary Elgin Marble Room in 1819. Initially in the Antiquities Department, he later became the Keeper of Minerals and then the Keeper of Zoology.

Anna Children illustrated Lamarck’s ‘Genera of Shells’ which her father had translated. In 1825 Anna married John Pelly Atkins JP, and they made their home at Halstead Place. Mr Atkins was made High Sheriff of Kent for 1847.

In 1841 a Manual on British Algae was published. Anna used the Cyanotype process, newly invented by a close family friend, Sir John Herschel, to make numerous images of British seaweeds. The first volume appeared in 1843 and pre-dated William Henry Fox Talbot’s ‘Pencil of Nature’.

Anna’s father acted as an intermediary in her scientific endeavours, writing to Hooker at Kew Gardens about the progress of the imaging of the algae and Hooker, in turn, instructed Anna in botany. Her father’s chemical knowledge was invaluable in the production of the cyanotypes. Father and daughter had a very close relationship and when her father died on the first day of January 1852 she was grief stricken. Her Memoir of J G Children, privately published in 1853, was modestly signed AA, as were her volumes of cyanotypes of British seaweeds. The memoir includes poetry written by her grandfather, George, her father, John George and also poetry she herself wrote.

We celebrate the anniversary of the accessioning of the first of her volumes of cyanotypes into the Library of the British Museum. Anna Atkins, nee Children was an artist – she drew, she did lithography and was an author, writing poetry and the memoir of her father. She was also a scientific illustrator as well as being the first woman to produce a photo book and, many believe, the first woman photographer. She has no descendants but is memorialised in a beautiful mollusc, Anna Children’s lucine, Miltha childreni (Gray 1824). Her father is also memorialised in a number of animals, including molluscs and insects and the mineral Childrenite.

Gael E Phillips.
14 October 2014

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Doug makes a thankyou presentation to Gael

Doug makes a thankyou presentation to Gael

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Other images from the events…

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The Anna Atkins 'memorial' with Larry J Schaaf's book 'Sun Gardens'

The Anna Atkins ‘memorial’ with Larry J Schaaf’s book Sun Gardens

World Photobook Day Photobook Club event Brisbane @ The Edge Photo Doug Spowart

Looking at the books brought to the event

World Photobook Day Photobook Club event Brisbane @ The Edge Photo Doug Spowart

The artists’ photobook end of the books brought along by Adele Outeridge, Mel Brackstone and Jan Ramsay

World Photobook Day Photobook Club event Brisbane @ The Edge Photo Doug Spowart

Looking at W Eugene Smith’s BIG BOOK.

World Photobook Day Photobook Club event Brisbane @ The Edge Photo Doug Spowart

Checking out Jacob Raupatch’s newspaper

 

FOTO FRENZY’S WPD Event

With Doc Ross' book 37 @ the Foto Frenzy WPD event

With Doc Ross’ book 37 @ the Foto Frenzy WPD event

Ian Poole @ the Foto Frenzy WPD event

Ian Poole @ the Foto Frenzy WPD event

@ the Foto Frenzy WPD event

@ the Foto Frenzy WPD event

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Until next year….

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pbc-logo-1

PBC logo

 

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