Digital hybrids: A new twist on an old process

Melissa Jolley tells us how she combines digital artwork with historic photographic processes such as cyanotypes.

Writer and photography / Melissa Jolley


Cyanotype by Melissa Jolley
Cyanotype by Melissa Jolley
Many fine art photographers are reluctant to give up traditional wet processes and fully embrace the new digital age.

Wet processes give us a tangible relationship to our art.

Digital technology offers exciting possibilities, but there is a disconnect between our art when there is no physical involvement. This is why so many of us are drawn to alternative processes. It gives us physical access to our art. It requires skill and knowledge that comes partly from the intellect and partly through sense memory, where are hands, our eyes, and our intuition know that precise moment of truth.

Cyanotype by Melissa Jolley
Cyanotype by Melissa Jolley
Digital Hybrids offer the best of both worlds. It provides the endless toolbox of the digital realm, while offering that unique experience of wet processes. I consider work that combines both tradition photography processes and digital process Digital Hybrids. Many photographers still prefer film, but scan and create within Photoshop. I create the digital negative and then begin my process.

What is a digital negative?

A digital negative is an image that is shot either through digital capture or by tradition film. Then, a transparency is created from the image.

I prefer to shoot a raw digital image because it allows for more flexibility.

The Process

Cyanotype by Melissa Jolley
Cyanotype by Melissa Jolley
To begin, you need to start by having a black and white image. I do this any number of ways through Photoshop. Then, I manipulate my image by adding text, other images, borders, etc.

When I am satisfied with my image, I make an inverse image of the photograph (Image>Adjustments>Invert). Then, I print the inverted image onto transparency film. This becomes your negative.

I often work with 8×10 or 8 1/2 x 11 sheets. After I print my digital negative, I can use any number of alternative processes. Cyanotypes are fairly predictable to work with. I use the edges of the transparency to mark the area of the paper that needs to be coated with chemistry. I coat the paper and lay my transparency on top to expose it, just as a negative. Expose and develop your paper according to the type of process you are working with.

The result:  Is a beautiful, large, sharp, and cleanalternative processed photograph.

Working with photography for over 20 years, Melissa Jolley creates hybrids with digital processes and alternative processes.

Read more about cyanotypes
Beginners guide to cyanotypesBlueprint 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

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