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Teaching Winter Session, Week 3

Writer and photography / Nancy Breslin

Nancy Breslin is teaching alternative photographic processes at the Uni. Here we can follow her five week course. Week three had students working with Holgas, cyanotypes and vandyke browns.

cyanotype prints
Cyanotype prints done by my students this week.

I find January a depressing month (I hate cold weather), but it does pass quickly when I’m teaching a five week winter course.

We began the week with our first formal critique, looking at cyanotoypes and Holga contact sheets. Everyone had some success with the former. In view of the weather and the short time frame, the students were welcome to use photographs they had taken for previous classes, and the imagery was quite varied, from wild animals to flowers to portraits to landscapes to cupcakes. A bad image printed using a cool process is still a bad image, and I think they made good decisions regarding what would translate well into a hand-made blue print.

The Holga work was a challenge at this time of year, with little color and lots of gloom. Yet it was a first opportunity for most of the class to work with medium format film, and two students mentioned the advantages of needing to think carefully about each shot, since you only get twelve, which is so unlike the free endless shooting that one can do with a digital camera. Some students really took advantage of the playful nature of these cameras, using double exposures and blended images to good effect.

Darkroom  Holiday Lights
Holiday lights make paper coating easier and this way the darkroom feels magical to me.
Midweek was a rush to complete Van Dyke brown prints and to start monochrome and 3-color gum prints. The VDB critique was on Thursday, and it was interesting to compare some pairs of prints where one negative had been tried with both cyanotype and VDB. Friday was an open lab day for independent work. Most students were focused on gum printing, although some were working in pinhole or trying lumen printing or solarization. Working on several processes at once has advantages (less competition for the UV units or the b&w chemistry sink) and disadvantages (paper coating is harder under safelights, but the holiday lights will ruin silver gelatin paper, so everyone had to compromise at times). I’m looking forward to Tuesday’s critique of gum prints and pinhole prints, since those are my personal favorites.

After week one I mentioned the visit to class by a reporter and photographer from our local paper, doing a story about winter session at my university. The article was published on Sunday at http://delonline.us/ADdqf9, and features several pictures of my class.

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