The myth: A pinhole camera cannot be used to make cyanotypes! Malin Fabbri confirms the myth.
It has been said that the exposure times for a pinhole camera are just too long to make a cyanotype print.True or false?
For testing this theory we used a bucket pinhole camera with f/295 hole and exposure time of around 1-5 minutes when using ordinary black & white silver gelatin paper – depending of course on the strength of the light. Where the black & white paper would normally sit, a coated cyanotype paper was inserted, and the camera aimed at the garden.
Exposing the paper for 8 hours – a very long exposure time by any standards – did not result in the slightest imprint on the paper. Not a shadow.
A fresh paper was inserted. This time the exposure time was weeks instead of hours. Five weeks to be exact – in the Scandinavian summer time, when the sun shines for most of the day and most of the night. This resulted in some unimpressive streaks on the paper. See image on left.
Not being disheartened, another paper was inserted, and exposed for six month. For half a year the pinhole was sitting there, letting in light through it’s little hole, exposing the paper. The result? After the rinse, a slight blue patch showed in one corner, but certainly nothing worth the effort. See above right.
True or false? The conclusion: True! To combine pinhole and cyanotype, the in-camera method cannot be used. Instead, make a negative using the pinhole camera, and use the negative to print a cyanotype.
After the article was published a few readers came forward with their experiences. Thank you. Here is Sarah Warwicks experiment.
Blueprint to cyanotypes – Exploring a historical alternative photographic process
by Malin Fabbri and Gary Fabbri
A well illustrated step-by-step guide to cyanotypes.
A lot more information on the process, chemicals, coating, exposure, printing, making negatives, washing and troubleshooting is available in this book.
Strongly recommended for beginners