12/05/2008

Alternative Photographic Printmaking

For the past two semesters senior Kelli McGuire (a third-semester advanced photography student at West) has been experimenting with two different alternative printing techniques to create her images. When Kelli was enrolled in Advanced Photography in the fall semester of 2007 she worked with a process called the cyanotype (sī-ān'ə-tīp'), which is a printing process that yields a cyan-blue image when the paper is exposed to the sun. Kelli, intrigued by the process, decided to take another semester of Advanced Photography to concentrate on creating more cyanotype images. The photograph below is an example of one of Kelli's images created during that semester.


Currently, Kelli has started working with a new process called the kallitype (kal·ə′tīp). It is similar to the cyanotype process but is much more extensive in the technical steps to creating a finished image. Kelli is the first student ever at West to work with this process and she has created an impressive body of work! Take a look at one of her finished kallitypes:



I asked Kelli to write up a short summary about her work over the past two semesters. She had this to say about working with the two processes:

"I first became interested in the cyanotype process in Advanced Photography with our alternative photographic technique assignment. My older sister had tried a few cyanotypes when she was in advanced photo at West, and I thought they looked cool, so I decided to try it. Cyanotypes make a fairly easy alternative photo, because they only require two chemicals (potassium ferricyanide and ferric ammonium citrate) and water. After my first semester in regular advanced photo, I took advanced, advanced photography and focused on the cyanotypes. The method is pretty easy to become familiar with and begin perfecting particular preferences. I experimented with different subjects for my negatives as well as different ways to make the negatives. I found that converting digital images into negatives seems to be the easiest method; I have also found that I prefer stone or simple building structures for my subject matter. I think good, clear detail in stone objects or buildings give nice prints and a good range of the blue tonal values of cyanotypes.

I read about kallitypes in an alt. photo technique book when I was researching more about cyanotypes. By this time, I had been working with cyanotypes for a few months and was really enjoying the process and results. The kallitype process sounded similar, and I really liked the final images, so I decided to try the process. Kallitype printing requires MANY more chemicals than cyanotypes, so it takes more time to become familiar with. The kallitype also offers more variety for the final image. Whereas cyanotypes are only blue, kallitypes can be developed and toned to result in brown, sepia, and black, as well as red and gold tones. The kallitype sensitizer is also much more light-sensitive than that of the cyanotype, so it required a bit of adjustment on my part when I first began the working it. Also, instead of just washing the print with water like cyanotypes, kallitypes go through an entire development process just like the basic printing process. The same type of negative is used in both methods, and I like the same subject matter for both methods.

So far I’ve spent about a semester working with each method, respectively, and I honestly like them both. The cyanotype process yields really nice blue images if done correctly, and it’s simple. While the kallitype method is much more of a time commitment and requires more dedication, it is just as fun for me. There is more variety in the final image, and it also produces good tonal values for the particular developer if done correctly."
For more information about these and other alternative printing processes visit David Chow's blog Alternative Photographic Processes or AlternativePhotography.com.

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