An interview with author of “Cyanotype toning: Using Botanicals to Tone Blueprints Naturally”, Annette Golaz on why she tones cyanotypes, she also shares her favorite toning “recipe” with us.
How did you get interested in art and photography?
Annette Golaz: My interest in photography goes back to my childhood. My dad was a real camera buff. He left us a collection of 400 cameras and an attic full of photographs, negatives and super 8 film footage. We three kids all grew up with an analogue camera, learning to use it properly and processing photographs in the darkroom. However, this was my father’s area of expertise, and we remained his students. While he was alive, I felt almost as if I didn’t have permission to work independently as a photographer, so I first went into painting and drawing. Only after my dad passed away ten years ago did I feel like picking up photography again.
“When I discovered Alt Processes, I instantly knew this was the perfect meld of these two art forms (photography and painting).”
What is so special about cyanotypes?
Annette Golaz: It wasn’t love at first sight. Gum printing was my favorite process and cyanotypes only served as the first layer of my gum prints or I printed them over platinotypes. However, after Christina Z. Anderson invited me to contribute to her cyanotype book, the process came to the forefront of my attention. I started to look more closely into printing cyanotypes and wanted to push the boundaries. I love the fact that the process is non-toxic and inexpensive. This means you can experiment endlessly without ruining yourself – financially or, in my case, health-wise, since I show allergic reactions to the dichromate used for gum printing. It’s a modest, unpretentious process open to everyone, that can however be brought to unexpected heights. It’s like making jewelry out of wood.
Why toning? Don’t you like blue? 🙂
Annette Golaz: Oh, blue is my favorite color! My wardrobe looks like the sea in all weather conditions. However, in my photographic work color plays an important role. Therefore, exploring new possibilities of enlarging the color spectrum by toning cyanotypes was a mesmerizing and extremely joyful journey.
“I learned so much about plants and their potential as natural dyes and as herbal medicine, it was mind-blowing.”
This has changed my entire life, not only my Alt practice. For example, nowadays I treat all kinds of small ailments successfully with botanicals.
Why a book?
Annette Golaz: I never intended to write a book at all. It was more like when an introvert child discovers something new and is so excited about it that it needs to shout it from the roof tops regardless of its shyness. I just saw so much potential and so many creative possibilities in my findings that I simply wanted to share them. I could not only tone a rainbow of colors but also achieve tricolor prints with the use of only one botanical. I felt the world needed to know about that. I started by telling Christina Z. Anderson and she instantly suggested I write a proposal for Routledge, and in turn they immediately invited me to write this book. It was all quite magical. However, the writing process was totally overwhelming, Covid 19 passed by me completely since I did literally nothing other than doing my money-making job and writing the book. It was probably the most challenging work I have ever done in my life. I am glad I had a lot of support from my friends.
What has the response to your book been?
Annette Golaz: It’s maybe a bit early to tell. Many have ordered the book but not yet gotten it and started to work with it. However, I already got some very positive feedback from readers. People thanking me for my research, for example, or telling me that a whole new world opened to them. That makes me very happy, since I hoped to ignite something in other artists. I am so curious to see how the process gets further developed by others with plants growing in their area.
What are you doing now?
Annette Golaz: I told a friend that I needed to take a break and that I would not work in my studio for a while. However, it did not last for long. I gave a workshop in Berlin two months after I submitted the manuscript and met so many inspiring people that I returned to my studio immediately to try out new things and I am feeling fully recharged now. I am still trying to hone my tricolor process. I cannot achieve satisfying greens since the yellow is rather warm. I am testing a lot of things right now – quite unsuccessfully so far, I must admit. Maybe someone else will come up with a solution once they have read the book?
Favourite toning recipe?
Annette Golaz: Here one of my favorite recipes for toning. I love the fact that simple kitchen scraps, like sweet potato skins, can make amazing toners. They will give you an anthracite verging on black. However, they brighten up the print – like almost all roots do. Therefore, you have to overexpose the cyanotype to get a darker color. I usually double the exposure time. Place about 50 g of finely cut dried sweet potato peel and 0.5 g of calcium carbonate per 1000 ml of water in a stainless-steel pan. Bring tap water to the boil in a kettle, pour over the peel and leave to infuse for 15 minutes. Strain into a tray and let cool to 125o F. Place the cyanotype face down in the toner bath and leave for 2 to 3 hours.