TLJConnects | Photo printmaking

Our long-time collaborator Tanushree Singh, has been experimenting with various forms of photo printmaking and documenting the results on her social media. Prints of flowers and leaves in beautiful shades of blue, green, and brown caught our eye. Curious, we got in touch with her to understand the process.

Edited bits of our conversation with her on printmaking in India, cyanotype, and more. 

 

TLJ: Has photo-printmaking become a thing of the past?

TS: Yes, it has. Taking a picture is just a click away, and uploading it online to share with a large audience is simpler when compared to printing a photograph. But there is a great sense of nostalgia and value attached to a physical photograph— family photo albums may be stacked away in safe corners of our homes and may seldom be taken out, but when they do come out, they are cherished with a lot of patience and a sense of warmth. The quick swiping of a dozen versions of the same moment captured on our phones doesn't feel the same. So printing photographs might be fading slowly, but it'll never die. The touch and feel of an experience will always hold more value. 

TLJ: What are alternative photographic printing processes and what are the most common types? 

TS: Alternative photographic printing techniques are mostly techniques from the 19th century that are non-silver based. There are many such processes, each requiring different chemicals and procedures, and each producing different results in different colours. It is like an extension of the image making process, and allows a person to add a bit of magic to a photograph after it has been taken. Watching a print appear in front of your eyes feels nothing less than magic. 

I think cyanotype is the most commonly practiced technique, purely because of the ease of doing it and also the multiple interesting applications to it.

TLJ:  Can you tell us more about Cyanotype printing? 

TS: Remember blue prints used by architects? Well, their origins actually go back to cyanotypes— a photographic printing process that was discovered in 1842, just three years after the official discovery of photography. Here's a quick break down of the process for you: 

Potassium ferricyanide and Ammonium ferric citrate green
are mixed in a certain ratio with water, and when combined they become reactive to UV light

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This combined chemical is then coated on paper and dried in a dark room.

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A negative is then placed on this dried sheet and exposed in the sun.

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 Reacting to the UV in the sun, the paper starts changing colour.

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In a few minutes the paper is then simply washed in water. 

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Voila! A beautiful photograph in Prussian Blue color is produced. 

  Cyanotype made using a foam brush

Cyanotype made using a foam brush

Cyanotype prints can be created without the use of a negative and also with objects to create impressions. For example, instead of placing a negative over the coated paper, one can simply place an object such as a leaf or a flower. The impression of that leaf or flower will appear on the paper after exposure to the sun! 

TLJ: How did you start experimenting with cyanotype? 

TS:  I stumbled upon a few alternative photographic processes,  about 5-6 months ago, at a workshop and have been hooked since. Printmaking is an art and for someone who loves both art and photography, this technique is the perfect creative outlet.  One can be artistic in the way the paper (different kinds can be used like art paper, butter paper, hand made paper, newspaper etc.) is coated with the chemical, or use different kinds of strokes and even different kinds of brushes to create unique patterns. The possibilities with cyanotypes are endless.  Besides paper, cyanotypes can be made on cloth, glass, ceramics, wood, and tiles too. People make prints on jewellery, pottery and clothes as well, using cyanotypes.  

  Cyanotype on butter paper

Cyanotype on butter paper

  Cyanotype photogram made using a sponge instead of a regular brush

Cyanotype photogram made using a sponge instead of a regular brush

TLJ: Where do the beautiful shades of blue and brown come from?

TS: If all of the above wasn't enough, cyanotypes can also be toned in different colours using different chemicals and even materials that are available at home. Once a cyanotype print has been made, it can be dipped in tea, coffee, vinegar, lemon, wine, to bring out different tones of colours. 

  Cyanotype photograms using green tea and soy sauce

Cyanotype photograms using green tea and soy sauce

  Cyanotype photograms using coffee and vinegar

Cyanotype photograms using coffee and vinegar

TLJ: Can you show us one or two pictures that you’re very proud of but have achieved only after many failed experiments?

TS:  I have slowly progressed to printing cyanotypes on glass now, which is not as easy as printing on paper at all. This method includes roughly 15 steps and each glass print can take up to 3-4 hours to make. It can be a bit frustrating initially to spend so much time trying to make a print and failing. It took me a couple of months to master this process but the effort was totally worth it!

  Cyanotype on glass

Cyanotype on glass

  Cyanotype on glass

Cyanotype on glass

 

TLJ: Any events/workshops that you suggest an enthusiast can look at?

TS: A few places and people that offer workshops on cyanotypes are:

Museo Camera - The Vintage Camera Museum, Gurgaon

Chaitanya Guttikar, Pune

Siddharth Kaneria, Rajkot

Nirupama Academy of Hand Made Paper, Kolkata

Kanoria Centre for Arts, Ahmedabad 

 

NOTE : If your interested, cyanotype chemicals are available at the chemical market in Chandi Chowk, Delhi.