Recently I completed a series of cyanotypes printed onto wood. This process uses light sensitive iron salts that upon exposure, leave a pigment of prussian blue. Wood makes things a little more challenging due to the natural tannins, lignins and sugars which interact with the iron salts. This series is based on photographs taken in Iceland several years ago. Here is one on 8″ x 8″ birch ply:
Great Skua, Iceland Copyright Peter Friedrichsen
For this series I used the sun as a light source rather than my diffuse light UV exposure unit since I haven’t yet found a practical way to mate the negative 100% with wood; the sun is much more forgiving this way producing a sharper image even if the negative is not in full contact. Below is one of my prints being exposed to the late August sun.
I continued my argyrotype printing into May. When working out a new process, there are dozens of test prints to be made. The variables of the paper, chemistry, brush technique, exposure, and negative density and curve all affect the end result, so much fine tuning is needed before a satisfactory print can be made. I completed two 19 inch wide prints which is a fairly challenging size for an alternative process print. This one, posted below was part of the Contact 2016 photography festival in Toronto.
Winter Afternoon (2016) Copyright Peter Friedrichsen
Previous to my work with printing onto metal, I worked with paper using various historical processes. I have recently returned to this medium and am working on a series that is “silver-based” and printed on watercolour paper.
There are a number of lesser known silver-based processes beyond the well known and once very popular silver-gelatin emulsion but I have chosen to pursue the Argyrotype process, a process developed by Mike Ware in the early 90s. Argyrotype prints share some similarities to Van Dykes which are known in alternative process circles. The Argyrotype process, like that of the Van Dyke utilizes the light sensitive reaction of a silver salt and an iron salt.
The Argyrotype sensitizer is developed in an acidic bath allowing any residual iron to be washed out, further it has the added advantage of a long shelf life. The prints produced are of various shades of brown ranging from a deep chocolate with hints of purple to a medium-brown depending on a number of variables. The silver salt employed is silver sulfamate, a salt that is less hazardous to work with than silver nitrate which is quite corrosive and rapidly stains most materials that it contacts. Unfortunately silver sulfamate is a much less common chemical, so I make my own using silver oxide and sulfamic acid.
The silver particles produced from the reduction of the salt are very fine being only dozens of nanometers in size. The final size is affected by many variables resulting in variations in the prints tone. Unfortunately, the fine particle size of any of these processes makes the prints more vulnerable to atmospheric or paper contaminants, so the use of some type of toning bath is a good idea. I am currently toning with selenium which cools the print tone somewhat. I will post some of my results once I complete some larger pieces that are in the works.
Recently, I have been happy to be part of two group exhibitions. In April, my work was shown at Art Intersections in Gilbert Arizona as part of Lightsensitive 2015. In May, I was also exhibiting at the Darkroom 4.0 analog photography exhibit here in Toronto, as part of the Contact photography festival. Both of these shows highlight alternative photographic art, and they have been annual events so if you missed them this year you may have another chance next year.
I have been doing many technical experiments with the silvering of copper. The hope is that I can use silver as a surface for my metal prints as this would extend the aesthetic to a third metal in addition to copper and aluminum.
Silver is one of the most reflective metals of visible light. While aluminum also has this attribute, it reflects less of the longer red waves of light and therefore appears slightly cooler with a slight blue cast. Silver on the other hand is more reflective towards the yellow and red end of the spectrum emitting a warmer tone. It also reflects a greater percentage of available light giving it an added luminosity.
Since silver is costly, plating seems to make sense. Unfortunately electrolytic silver plating is technically challenging and often requires the use of a toxic cyanide bath for the best plating results; this is not something that I am willing to do in my setup for my art. There are a few plating shops that provide such a service but the setup charges are high for low volumes, so I don’t think it is a worthwhile approach. An alternative is an immersion plate but this has other challenges namely that the silver plate is so thin that it eventually diffuses into the copper and disappears over several years.
After hundreds of tests and adjustments to immersion baths, I have been able to immersion plate with thicknesses up to 3 microns, which is much thicker than traditional non-catalytic immersion baths producing thickness of up to 0.1 microns. There still remain some tweaks, since as the plate gets thicker, it also roughens and can develop pits. I am really hoping that over the next month I can resolve these problems so that I can provide prints on bright silver.
I always try to post a note at least monthly but chaos has reigned since moving in July and many other things related to it have taken priority.
Recently while packing up for a move to a different home not too far away from where I had lived for nearly two decades, I came across an old letter addressed to one of my wife’s sisters, from a fellow named Earnest who was moving from out west to Toronto. What I remember most about it is the wording of one of his sentences; “Moving is a terrible thing, most distressing!.”This is no understatement.
This move had occurred early this past July and it wasn’t until November that I had the bulk of my studio back to a functional state. Since October, it has mostly served as a restoration studio involving painting, and restoring old hardware such as cast iron heating duct covers. These have been painted over dozens of times over the past century. We are working hard to maintain as much originality of this old house as is practical, so all of the efforts are time consuming and intensive. There is a perpetual list where new things appear as fast as old things scroll off.
I am hoping to get back to working on more prints in the New Year but I do find that I need a meditative-like focus when working creatively because distraction can make it difficult to create works that satisfy me. Hopefully things will settle down for a couple of months.
I have just wrapped up my show at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibit (TOAE). There were 348 artists exhibiting work in a 3 day show that had the perfect summer weather. It was a challenge pulling this off because my wife and I were in the dreaded throes of moving, all of which was only days away. She did an incredible amount of work while I was committed to being at the show for three very full days.
What a project it must be to organize such a large outdoor art event. A great thanks to the TOAE organizers who did such a great job and to all of those who stopped by to visit my booth.
I have recently completed 10 new plates. I will be showing this work and earlier work at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibit (TOAE) on July 4, 5, and 6 at Nathan Philip Square. The subject matter is urban-Toronto which is a different direction from my previous sets that contained rural imagery. In retrospect, my first shots taken with a 35mm camera back around 1989 were along Spadina, Queen West and Kensington market; full circle.
Below is a set of five 8″ x 8″ aluminum plates mounted on 4 mm porcelain tile. While my previous work is framed, I thought that a less distracting “framing” technique would be worth a try. The plates are float mounted onto the tile and are not protected by glass. I think that the acrylic coating placed over the plates will be sufficient protection especially when wall mounted.
Companies were once in the habit of painting their buildings with advertising logos and many of them date back 50 years or more. Often referred to as ghost signs, there are a few still to be found here in Toronto. I am roughly guessing that there may be a couple dozen left here in the city. The paint is slowly deteriorating and the signs continue to fade. Of course the constant construction of tall buildings often means the end for these fading relics.
Often the signs were painted over with new advertisements. Adhesion of paint to itself is not as strong as adhesion to the underlying brick which results in signs showing multiple images as the top coat partially peels away.
The First image below is from a sign at 345 Adelaide Street West, right downtown. This is a two layered sign. The first layer is “Hugh C. MacLean Publications”. The building was occupied by this company for some time up until the mid or late 50s. Following that, Gevaert, a Belgium photographic film manufacturer, moved in and repainted over the sign.
If the distracting colours from the MacLean layer are removed (digitally), you can make out the following: “Head office of Gevaert Canada Limited Toronto”
The first image also reveals Gevaert’s circular logo in the top left. The Gevaert name is there with their characteristic triangle just below the name. You won’t be able to see either of these from the image above, but they do show up in my high resolution original. Furthermore, a closer look at the orange box in the first photo reveals a film box of Gevapan 33. This was a popular film in the 50s, so popular I guess that Illford eventually bought the Belgium company.
These signs often go unnoticed today and are faded relics of their glory days. They are outcompeted by much larger and often more imposing structures and brilliantly lit signage. I have created this series in an attempt to bring them back into focus.
Finally I also completed a set of five plates based on imagery from Tommy Thompson Park in Toronto. This series highlights a few examples of natural recovery; low lying shrubs, grasses, water, and trees. There is one image of trees juxtaposed by the city skyline. I find it ironic that a human-made wasteland with which this park is formed on, when left alone, comes to life but a city when left alone to fill with these same plants would be considered derelict.
I will be taking apart my basement work studio and moving in July to a different location a few blocks away, so things will be chaotic to say the least. This is also around the time of the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition, of which I will be a part of; disorder always seems to want to rule.
I am in the process of producing a new series of plates which is my first urban-Toronto themed set, some of which include multiple printed layers. I have spent quite a bit of time working my process to allow for multi-layered printing. There were some difficulties in applying over-layers as the brush would damage the base layer. Some changes to the emulsion and the brush were necessary and now things are working quite well.
I have been spending some time making cyanotype prints. This is a photographic printing process that is very old and yields prints that are of varying shades of blue but can vary to an indigo or even brown and black when toned in solutions containing natural tannins. The process is quite simple at first glance but to really get it to where I want takes some time. I have managed to get some of my prints to a dmax of 1.5 which is quite a deep blue/black. Paper, the type of sensitizer (oxalate or citrate, modifiers), brush type, and technique etc… all affect the end result. I hope to post some images of these prints here in the future. I am also going to see how they look when applied directly to my metal plates.
Earlier in January, I was out to Tommy Thompson park here in Toronto. It is a spit of land composed entirely of landfill, most of which has been dug out from the downtown area. It reaches out about 5 km into Lake Ontario. It has many nesting colonies for cormorants and seagulls. Owls and swans also frequent the park. The hiking was somewhat of a hazard due to the endless “lacquered” ice sheets that adorned the road and paths that lead to the lighthouse. I did however manage to get some photographs, and a few of which are interesting enough. I would like to get back once again before winter is over since the sun was getting low too early.
Recently I visited a photographic exhibit of Ansel Adams work. There was an exhibit of about 45 of his favourite prints at the McMichael Gallery here in Ontario, Canada. This is the first time I have had the opportunity to see the actual prints rather than a compromised printed book rendition. A number of the prints are dominated by contrasting elements; white clouds over darkened skies or white snow covered mountain peaks contrasting against shadowy ridges. They are striking to see in real life.
The darkroom was his artist’s workshop where these images were brought to life through his masterful manipulation of the silver-gelatin print creation process. Primitive by comparison to today’s freedom of digital manipulation, but a glaring example of how the artist’s imaginative use of available tools rather than their sophistication is what matters most.
I exhibited my work at the 25th annual Cabbagetown Art and Crafts sale September 6-8, 2013. I had 14 framed pieces on display. Saturday was a wash-out but Sunday was very crowded as the sun beamed down. Many were excited to see my work which is always encouraging. A great thanks to all who visited my booth, and to the organizers of this event.
Booth at the 25th Cabbagetown Art and Crafts show in September, 2013