Something blue.

Saturday, September 25, 2021 is World Cyanotype Day – and no, I did not make that up all by myself, though I would have, if I’d thought of it on my own years ago. And yes, it’s a made-up thing, as every other “World something-something Day” is, too.

If you know me, then you already know how much I love making cyanotype prints and you’ve likely watched me play with this particular medium over the past five or six years. I fell in love with cyanotype printing in my first year of photography studies, in the fall of 1984 (!), and the attraction is as strong now as then. In cyanotype printing is everything I love about art, science, nature, accidents, composition, and – of course – the color blue.

Invented by Sir John Herschel, cyanotype printing was developed in the 1840s when photography was in its infancy. Herschel was the first to recognize the photosensitivity of ferric (iron) salts. This simple discovery, that upon exposure to ultraviolet light ferric salts converted to ferrous state, was fundamentally important for the evolution of photography.

The cyanotype process fell out of favor as other processes, which yielded images in a more stately range of brown and black, took its place. Relegated to the realm of amateurs and hacks, the process, with its elegant simplicity and lovely range of blue-hued results, was largely ignored until the 1960s. More recently, it’s taken on a trendy status.

Whether it’s in or out of vogue, I don’t much care. That’s what happens, I suppose, with love at first sight: Fashionable isn’t a consideration.

On World Cyanotype Day in the before times, people gathered in real places and made things and celebrated making them. This year, as in other years, A Smith Gallery (Texas) will be accepting cyanotype flags, printed on 12×12 squares of fabric, to assemble an installation that will be on display starting September 25. Entries are due by September 17th.

The thing is, cyanotype printing is so easy that anyone can give it a try. And that’s what I want to share with you today, a month (give or take) from World Cyanotype Day. You can join in the fun, if you want. Who knows where it might take you? (And yes, I’m looking at you, MamaArt….)

A note at the beginning of these next few paragraphs: No, this isn’t an affiliate link post. I don’t even know how those work, and I don’t want to. If I recommend something or send you down a link trail, it’s because the product is something I buy and use and enjoy. Period. So whether you take or leave this particular recommendation is entirely up to you.

If you’d like to have a try at cyanotype printing and might even want to join the fun of World Cyanotype Day, here’s a kit just for that purpose, from my favorite supplier of alternative process chemicals, Bostick & Sullivan in Santa Fe (pure coincidence, that location).

The kit contains everything you’ll need to prepare fabric squares for cyanotype printing. If you want to read about the process before ordering a kit (or other supplies, from another store), then maybe have a quick look at this overview – which isn’t from Bostick & Sullivan but is pretty simple and comprehensive.

What will you print on them? Only you can decide that. You can make traditional botanical prints, using leaves and flowers from your yard. You can make handprints. You can make a negative with paint or ink and use that as a contact print (easier than it might sound). You can just have fun with it, and it you like what you create, then you can send your flags for the annual display. If you like your work so much that you can’t bear to part with it, then you can keep it. There aren’t rules here; that’s the fun of it all.

Get on Pinterest or Instagram and search “cyanotype” if you must, just for initial inspiration.

Not ready to take such a big, scary, artistic leap? Then don’t. But you might want to follow along with the Instagram posts and see what the world has to offer, just in the interest of beauty and art.

If it all sounds just a little too remote, then maybe some real images will help your imagination. Here’s a look at some of my work from the last 2-3 years:

All for now. See you tomorrow. We’ll talk about food. Of course we will, silly, because tomorrow is Saturday. I think?


This post is 18/56 in a self-directed challenge to write (or at least post) something (SOMETHING) every day – a birthday gift to me from me, because writing gives me a place to put the clutter that lives in my head.

8 thoughts on “Something blue.

  1. In New Orleans we do have cyanotype but it’s organized and taught by someone who makes lumens and to my way of thinking is one of the best around. I wish I could like A. Smith. I look at a friend of mine’s work is there — he does amazing things with crows. But, I think they are doing their very best to hurt photography with most of their selections being that weird hue of brownish-greenish-blue. A number of galleries do that.

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