Edd Carr creates what may be the first cyanotype video ever made

Edd Carr has created what may be the first cyanotype video. He was commissioned by Globe town Records in London to make a music video for Tycho Jones, and did so making over 5000 frames in cyanotypes and animating them. The music is melodic and has a nice beat and the cyanotypes are stunning. The video also deals thematically with birds and their relationship to culture and the climate crisis.

Photography / Edd Carr

First make sure to watch the video:

Tell us a little about yourself

Edd Carr: I am an independent artist from North Yorkshire, UK, primarily working with moving image and analogue photography. I have worked with alternative processes for a number of years, adapting them into moving image format. My work mostly deals with our anxieties around the ecological crisis, and the sixth mass extinction of life. By using tactile analogue processes, I try to create a link between the material nature of the work and the thematic content. For example, my film Here Comes the Wildfire! was printed entirely in the sun using the lumen printing method, on expired Ilford paper. I studied Marine and Natural History Photography at Falmouth University, and recently completed a Master’s in Contemporary Art at the Royal College of Art. Prior to this, I was a dog walker in the North York Moors National Park.

You became the project leader of Northern Sustainable Darkrooms in England that works for a green future for analogue photography, can you tell us about that too?

Edd Carr: I am also a researcher alongside my artistic work, having written two papers on the subject of sustainability in analogue photography. The first, called The Ecology of Grain, is an ecological analysis of animal gelatine in film, assessing the ethical and environmental implications of this key ingredient. After writing this, I did a residency with London Alternative Photography Collective, where I wrote a follow-up paper proposing a decentralised community of sustainable darkrooms. Collaborating with the Sustainable Darkroom, I set up the Northern Sustainable Darkroom (Instagram link) as the first attempt at a sustainable darkroom facility, and the establishment of this network.

How did you become interested in cyanotypes?

Edd Carr: The first cyanotypes I did were at university, in a typical workshop/learning session. I fell in love with both the beauty and ease of the process, and the fact that you could print it so easily in the sunshine, and develop in water. My early experiments were often contact prints of leaves and the like, with the occasional negative. As I began to experiment with adapting these processes into moving image, I did some short sequences in cyanotype for my film, A Guide to British Trees. It was then I realised cyanotype could be captivating as a moving image process, despite the intense labour involved!

What possessed you to print 5000 cyanotypes and make a video?

Edd Carr: Funnily enough, I had wanted to make an entire cyanotype video myself – about floods as a consequence of ecological breakdown. However, realising the mammoth nature of such a project, I had put it on hold until I could secure the time or funds. A few months later, the record label got in touch, and I saw it as an opportunity to try it out, with them funding the project. Of course, it wasn’t going to be about flooding, but I was given creative freedom to incorporate my own ideas around climate change and its effect on birds.

How did you make the video?

Edd Carr: So in total the video took about 2.5 months to finish. The first month involved shooting and collating footage, then editing it into a digital version. This was then split into individual frames (24 frames per second), meaning I had 24 images to print per second of footage. I turned them into negatives, and then printed them onto sheets of biodegradable acetate, using an Eco Tank mono printer. These were printed at 9 frames per a4 sheet, meaning in total I had to do about 580 a4 prints to cover all the frames.

For the cyanotype part, I used acid-free watercolour paper. As cyanotype can fog if left too long, I would follow a schedule of coating paper one day, drying them overnight, and then printing/washing the next day. For the printing, I tried using the sun at first, but it was too unreliable and time-consuming. So, I was generously donated the use of a UV bed by a local educational arts charity, called MAP.

“On, average, I did about 100 cyanotypes a day, working roughly 12 hours a day.”

The cyanotypes were then scanned individually, and cropped in Lightroom, before being placed into Final Cut.

Movie made using cyanotypes - negatives
Negatives for making the cyanotypes movie – inspired by environmentally issues.

Movie made using cyanotypes - negative
Negative of Tycho Jones for the music video using cyanotypes.
Movie made using cyanotypes - coating the paper
Coated cyanotype paper.
Movie made using cyanotypes - exposing the print
Cyanotype frames being exposed for the movie.
Movie made using cyanotypes - washing the print
Cyanotype in the wash tray.
Movie made using cyanotypes - final prints
Final printed cyanotypes ready to be used in the movie.

What is your relation to Tycho Jones?

Edd Carr: I did not know Tycho prior to the project – the record label had seen some of my work on Instagram, particularly my animations printed on soil, and were keen to get in touch. We’re now good friends, after an intense couple of months of working so closely together!

Are you planning any more large scale cyanotype projects?

Edd Carr: Definitely – but not for a good few months! It was so intense! I would like to revisit the flooding film, as mentioned above, as I feel the subject of water and aesthetic of cyanotypes will merge well together.

Edd Carr is the leader of the Northern Sustainable Darkroom. He is an independent artist from North Yorkshire, UK, primarily working with moving image and analogue photography.

7 thoughts on “Edd Carr creates what may be the first cyanotype video ever made”

  1. 5,000+ cyanotype frames? The (Herculean) effort certainly paid off with a unique and beautiful hand built-looking video hitched to quite a nice song.

  2. Thanks for all the comments. @Bradleigh – thanks for letting me know! Have duly adjusted press. I actually experimented with cyanotype as moving image back in 2017/18, which features in my film A Guide to British Trees. That film also features moving image from 35mm buried in soil, electrified 35mm, lumen prints, pinholes, and more – so maybe you’ll find it interesting!

    As for your comments @Laura, I will defer to the comments of Bradleigh on that one. We have also contacted scientists through my organisation the Sustainable Darkroom, and have got confirmation that what you are suggesting isn’t the case. But thanks so much for the feedback, and for checking out the video. If you ever want to talk to myself or one of us at the Sustainable Darkroom more – feel free to contact us via Instagram.

    Thanks all!

  3. Yes – you missed something. As to it being “ironic” that cyanotypes toxicity isn’t mentioned, there’s a bit of misinformation out there, compounded by some erroneous assumptions. According to the National Toxicology Program website of the Department of Health and Human Services potassium ferricyanide is not particularly toxic. They mention a woman who ingested a coffee spoonful of the solid and did not suffer any serious effect. The cyanide ligands seem to be very tightly bound to the iron atom. Potassium ferricyanide will not decompose to cyanide in the body. It will not kill you. It is not poisonous, but it is an irritant so it can itch if it splashes on your skin in concentration. It will also irritate your eyes, but under normal usage it is definitely one of the safest of all of the chemical photographic processes. You need to expose it to extreme temperatures (300+ degrees celsius) or very harsh acids (hydrochloric acid, nitric acid) in order to split it from the iron and liberate cyanide gas. These are not situations you will encounter in your regular use of the material.

  4. Ironic that the ecologically-involved film-maker does not mention how toxic cyanotypes can be unless they are disposed of in an environmentally sensitive way. Unless I missed something?

  5. No offense intended, but!: notwithstanding the ambition, scale, and quality of Mr. Carr’s film, cyanotype animation has been done on previous occasions. A YouTube search will show it has been done several times within the last year.

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