Recently, the conservation lab at State Library of Queensland has been experimenting with options for a cyanotype workshop. As the upcoming Fun Palace is all about celebrating science and art, it seemed the perfect opportunity for such an event.
First a little history; The cyanotype process was developed in 1842 by Sir John Herschel, a scientist and significant figure in the early history of photography. The process relies on the light sensitivity of iron salts, which when exposed to ultra-violet light form the pigment Prussian blue.
One of the earliest uses of the cyanotype process was in the production of botanical specimen images. In particular, the self-published Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions from 1843 by botanist Anna Atkins is a beautiful example. These early prints were made by placing specimens directly on the sensitised cyanotype paper and exposing to sunlight to create a contact print.
The State Library of Queensland has a number of historic cyanotype photographs in the collection. For example this wonderful image of a Bullock team carrying timber from Enoggera Scrubs to Moggil Creek from 1895 by Harry Alder
Cyanotypes, aka blueprints, were also a widespread photographic process in the 20th century. Blueprints were a typical process used to reproduce technical plans such as architectural drawings. A favourite blueprint example that recently came through the lab for conservation treatment is the below Portable Flame Thrower patent by inventor A.J. Hunting. We really enjoyed reading some of the text on the patent, but don’t recommend trying it out at home! Hunting’s work will be highlighted in an upcoming SLQ exhibition.
Artists, along with those interested in the materials and techniques of alternative and historic photographic processes, still create cyanotypes today. Wendy Catling (aka Ettamodern) is a Melbourne based artist working with the medium. You can see examples of her gorgeous work here
So, back to Fun Palace. We’ve been experimenting with different paper types and exposure times to get the workshop all sorted out. The possibility for printing on cloudy days has even been tested – which has worked surprisingly well! Below are some images of the process steps and successful prints hanging up to dry in the lab. It has been a really exciting process to learn about and we can’t wait to share it at Fun Palace on October 7!
SLQ Fun Palace is a free event
No bookings required
No experience necessary
Saturday 7th October
#funpalaces #slqfunpalaces #digitalfutures #digitalfutureslab
Kelly Leahey, Exhibitions Conservator, Collection Preservation
APE-32 Alder Photograph Album ca. 1895 http://onesearch.slq.qld.gov.au/SLQ:SLQ_PCI_EBSCO:slq_alma21148843420002061
30913 A. J. Hunting papers 1930s-1960s http://onesearch.slq.qld.gov.au/SLQ:SLQ_PCI_EBSCO:slq_alma21206220220002061
Wendy Catling – Ettamodern http://ettamodern.com/