U of S | Mailing List Archive | alt-photo-process-l | Re: pyro and cyano

Re: pyro and cyano

On Fri, 10 Apr 2009, Christina Z. Anderson wrote:

I quit using the hydrogen peroxide because it was questioned to perhaps compromise the archivalness of the paper and it was unnecessary because the print would eventually get to that dark blue anyway, PLUS it seemed to bleach the print a bit, though this latter is only subjective to me and another person or so.
I know "nature" isn't logical, but it seems to me that if the print is well rinsed, a peroxide bath won't be harmful. As for total depth of blue (if that's what you're after... so OK, like they say, "it's a free country"), we tested that in my "non-silver" class years ago. (Probably the smartest thing I did in teaching was assign a variables test for each half of the semester -- I got a lot of info that way.) Testing with 2 identical prints, or tearing one print in half, we found no difference with peroxide, at least by the end of the semester. And it figures not -- rinsed is rinsed.

I'm reminded however that the first few times we added peroxide to a cyanotype, the class was so thrilled (the effect, especially if you're not familiar with it, is stunning) I'd have hated to cut that out. And since students often were making their prints on surfaces like T-shirts, paper bags, a piece of paper they'd picked up in an East Village gutter, etc., fine points about "archival" were often moot. (I've also said before & say again, that I was an art student for a lot of years before I was a photo student, and "archival" was rarely mentioned. My theory is that was because we *knew* art was art. Photographers may, um, excuse me, be so concerned about "archival" because.... um, they're still not sure about
"art" status?)

However, speaking of cyanotype as medium, I've never found it other than generous and forgiving, assuming you're in a blue mood. Of course that may have been because my own style is not to set values in advance (I never got whitest white or darkest dark on a print in my life as far as I'm aware... In fact when I first read that in an early text, I shrugged it off. It wasn't because I knew better (tho I feel like I do now), or it seemed like too much trouble, it was because it seemed so arbitrary and irrelevant, I lost faith. (Who made up that rule anyway? Ansel Adams???)

As for photo books-- I want a satisfactory, if possible elegaic experience from a book of pictures. That seems more important, given the givens, than its absolute truth to the original... which may not translate well in a different medium (at least not at a price you could pay and get another book the next year). Even at their best, the two media are different media. Expecting them to match precisely may compromise both.

(Tho I guess if you're planning to copy the printing method, it could be important to see the work precisely -- but then the effect might be so leaden you wouldn't want to...)

BUT this is my question--does the hydrogen peroxided print actually get darker blue than one that oxidizes over several days? So if it gets darker, there would be a benefit to it. I have not tested this.
No, not in the aforementioned tests, amyway. Oxidised by bubbles of oxygen from a bottle, or in the air, wasn't, at least in NY/Brooklyn temperature, humidity, water, pollution, ambience, an issue.

And who the hell cares about the archivalness of my prints--like I'm going to be famous one day????
That's unknown either way, but you could be more famous for drecking them up, which at least at this moment is cooler.

Let me tell you, people complain about gum being fickle, I find personally in my practice cyanotype the most fickle process of all. I can only chalk it up to the fact that humidity and coating plays a way greater part in that process than people imagine.
Or it could be because cyano doesn't invite afterwork, fixing, re-coating, etc., as some do.