Cyanotype Decisions

The decision to use cyanotype in the book was grounded in the desire to produce a body of work that had artistic merit and wasn’t simply another cookery book. Years ago cookery books were illustrated (if at all) with simple line drawings and this illustrative effect was the aim. ‘Straight’ photographs of ingredients can be a bit to ‘informative’, this is the aim of the text. The images are there to break the text and give the viewer something else to consider. The recipes have an accompanying photograph because it is now considered an essential aid to replicate the recipe. This has not always been the case of course, but it would be unusual now to buy a cookery book without photographs of all of the dishes. Many books also contain lifestyle / alternative imagery, but that is for another post.

I tried a mix of ingredient contact cyanotype and contact negatives. Some of these contact negatives are ‘reverse negatives’ or positives to produce a cyanotype within the ingredient whilst the background is washed clean when developed in water. Ingredient contact cyanotypes were not as successful as I wished, the results were quite crude and lacked the finesse of Anna Atkins delicate ferns and mosses. I did eventually achieve success with direct contact and this can be seen in the final two images below ‘flowers & herbs’. The first attempt was once again too blocky but by a more considered use of material I was able to correct this. I also feel that this cyanotype provides a ‘sister’ image for the turmeric toned ‘spices’ – in shape and size of material.

Contact negatives gave me more latitude and enabled me to create a body of work that I feel has artistic merit, there are several that I intend to print and frame. Some of the images have been hand-toned, this doesn’t work for all of the cyanotypes. This colour discrepancy was not felt to be disruptive but continued the narrative into the food photographs.

Exposure times were typically around the 60 minute mark using electric ultra violet light. After developing in water a hydrogen peroxide wash was used to deepen the blues before drying, scanning and a final edit and crop in Lightroom before exporting to Photoshop for placing on ‘page’ and saving in different formats.

The first six images in the grid below are rejects and the following six will be used in the book.

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