Photographs by Frank

24 November 2020

2020 Winter Solstice Print

Filed under: Alternative Processes,Cyanotype,Winter Solstice Prints — Frank @ 9:00 PM

I don’t think that I have posted here before about my tradition of sending a print to friends and family in celebration of the winter solstice.

I am early this year because I was a bit nervous about having to print so many copies of a single print via a “wet” process. However, I was able to make twenty successful copies (on 5×7 inch paper) of this print in one long dim room session. I took prints to the post office yesterday.

The following is the photo (and accompanying text) that comprise the 2020 version of this tradition:

David Vestal (1924-2013) was a well-known photographer, critic and teacher. For many years he sent friends and family a small holiday print.  In 2013 I decided to begin a similar tradition. The print you have in front of you is my eighth “Winter Solstice Print”.

At the end of each year, I choose a photograph made during the preceding year; one that, I think, turned out well. I expect that most will not have a holiday, or even a winter, theme.  I make a dozen or so small prints and send them to folks whom I think might enjoy them. I do not keep a list of those receiving each year’s print and expect to send prints to a different selection of folks each year. Thus, do not be offended if you do not receive a print every year!

This year’s print, a cyanotype, is titled “Jane’s Barn”. The exposure was made on 6 April 2020.

I was headed back towards the house on my (allegedly) daily walk. The bright midday sun sharply illuminated this view of the back of our neighbor’s barn through the still leafless trees. It is a scene that I had passed by hundreds of times, but had never photographed.

Cyanotype is a photographic process invented in 1842 by Sir John Herschel. In this “year of the virus” I have taken up making cyanotypes after a hiatus of about a dozen years. It took me roughly a month back in April to work out all of the details of making prints in my basement “dim room”.

The cyanotype process involves painting a lemon-yellow solution of iron salts onto paper – Fabriano Tiepolo (130 gsm) in this case. Once the paper is dry, it is sandwiched with a negative in a contact-printing frame and exposed to ultraviolet light. Traditionally, the sun was used as the UV source. However, I use a homemade UV light box containing “black light” LEDs. Exposures take several minutes. These days, I work exclusively with inkjet negatives prepared from digital files and printed onto a clear film.

A pigment (Prussian blue) is formed via the action of the light on the iron compounds, producing the image. The exposed paper is washed free of the unexposed iron salts and dried to give the print you now hold.

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"Jane's Barn" (2020 Winter Solstice Print)

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