A Perfect Day (Except for the Clouds)

Nancy Breslin enjoys teaching the cyanotype process, taking a step back from the “easy” digital photos.

Writer and photography / Nancy Breslin

camera-less cyanotype
A print made at the Strathmore camera-less photo workshop.

I had a great day today, giving two camera-less photography workshops at Strathmore, a visual arts center in Bethesda, Maryland (just north of Washington, DC). In the morning I taught children how to make cyanotypes using paper that I had pre-coated. I let them loose on the grounds to collect plant samples, but they could also choose from flat objects I had brought along, including lace, cut paper and puzzle pieces. It was very overcast, so they had to be patient, but many of the prints came out beautifully.

Then I met with a group of adults. They began by coating their own paper with the cyanotype sensitizer (in a room lit by a string of holiday lights – I personally love the magical feel that lends to alt process work), and I gave a talk on the history of photography as the paper dried. The students then created cyanotype and lumen prints, with a choice of freshly picked leaves, lace or pressed flowers. With coating, arranging, fixing, rinsing, and drying spread over two floors of the Strathmore mansion, it was bit chaotic (but I had great help from Strathmore staff). The light was again less than ideal, but I think everyone could see the potential in these techniques, which are great for those without darkroom access who nonetheless wish to work with a non-digital photographic process.

I find teaching a joy, except for the grading, so teaching a workshop is heaven. It was very gratifying for me to see these methods so well received. As bombarded as we constantly are with fast, easy photos, taking the time to create a hand-crafted piece of photographic art is something more people should have the chance to do. I thank Holly Haliniewski of Strathmore for making today happen.

Leave a Comment