Super Saturday: Cyanotype Sun Prints

On Saturday, August 17th, the CRAG is hosting a very special Super Saturday. Drop by the studio any time from 1 to 3 pm to make your own cyanotype sun print. This all-ages activity is open to the public and cost is by donation. All materials and instruction will be provided.

Transport yourself back in time to the 1840s as cameras and photographs we just being invented. Join us for an afternoon of art-making so you too can learn how to make an image without a camera and with no lengthy developing process in a darkroom required – imagine that!

With the right chemicals, you can quickly produce a silhouette image on any paper. By placing an object directly on the sensitized paper and exposing it to light, the chemical reaction creates a “negative” effect. The background becomes the darkened blue areas because it is  exposed to the sun, while the surface that is covered by the object remains white. The contrast allows you to see the exact size and shape of the object. Watch the colour develop before your eyes and when you are satisfied, simply rinse with water to stop the developing. 

Fiona Annis, Da Corpo a Spirito. 3 cyanotype photograms, 2017.

Even though there is no camera involved in the making of a photogram, the “photographer” still needs some technical know-how – there is no “automatic” setting. Not to worry; our team will guide you through it, and there are no wrong answers when we are experimenting with new art-making techniques. Factors to contend with will include the strength and angle of the sun’s rays and the length of time the sensitized paper is exposed to the light. 

Man Ray, Untitled Rayograph. Gelatin silver photogram, 1922, 23.5 x 17.8 cm.
Man Ray, a 20th-century American artist who worked in Paris, created “rayographs” using a similar photogram technique with a different light-sensitive material.

Silhouettes aren’t the only effects that you can achieve with the photogram method. You can experiment with using objects that have transparent areas, which will let a small amount of light through and create a lighter blue shade where the paper is partially exposed to the sunlight. Taking inspiration from Fiona’s Désastre series, try crumpling the paper before exposing it to the light. Some of the surfaces will get more exposure than others, creating a beautiful abstract texture that resembles a landscape or map. 

Fiona Annis, Désastre (finding North). Archival inkjet print from silver gelatin negative, 2018.

We hope that this hands-on activity will spark your interest in the possibilities of using historical techniques to create unique and beautiful images in the 21st century. Make sure to revisit our current exhibition to compare your results to Annis’s photographic explorations. Fiona Annis: a portion of that which was once everything is on at the CRAG until September 4th.