Experimentation: Surrealist photography workshop

Van dyke_600px

Today I attended another workshop about photographic printing techniques.  This workshop utilised the cyanotype and Van Dyke printing methods in order to create surrealist photographs.  We started with negative/positive images of the human body, which were printed on to acetates.  We then put these images in clip frames and combined them with some unusual objects (e.g., I used a piece of toy train track, a necklace, some paper confetti, some dried flowers and grass, and a vinyl glove) before exposing them to the sunlight.

We actually had a few problems with our cyanotypes today.  They all came out fairly dark, so we assume that they were over exposed.  Obviously this was a little disappointing.  The Van Dyke prints on the other hand worked much better (see above).  Perhaps this is because the Van Dyke printing was a shorter process so we stood and watched them changing, which meant that we could get them out of the sun as soon as they were correctly exposed.  These prints displayed much stronger contrast as well as more subtle tones.

Aside from the basic processes (which I have made notes on for future reference), I learned a couple of other useful things that are worth making a note of.  Firstly, it is possible to use bleach to lighten overexposed cyanotypes.  This obviously won’t bring back any detail, but it does improve them.  The bleach we used was apparently normal household bleach (the runny kind not the viscous kind).

Secondly, I also learned that it is essential to mix the silver component for the Van Dyke process with purified water (not tap water), otherwise you get a milky mess that you can’t use.  The purified water can be bought in places like Halfords.

The third and final thing that I wanted to remember, was that you can create double exposures using both the cyanotype and Van Dyke printing methods.  For example, I created a double exposure on a Van Dyke print by placing my own hand over the image approximately half way through the exposure time.  The effect was really interesting.

Now that I am home, I will have to experiment with the cyanotype process again so that I can see how correctly exposed cyanotype prints compare to the Van Dyke prints.  Also, I will have to give some thought to what workshop I want to try next!

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