Today, we’ll show how to make a blueprint photograph.. by looking closely at the work of Anna Atkins. Hi everyone and welcome to the Rijksmuseum’s very own creative channel: RijksCreative! This season we’ll show you everything you need to know about watercolors.. inks and even blueprints! So grab your brushes and let’s go! This is our teacher for today: Angela.
-Hello! And our photography expert from the Rijksmuseum, Hans Rooseboom.
-Hello! Angela, what’s so special about this technique? What’s so special about this technique is the color. The cyanotype process was invented in 1842.. and in that period there was only black and white photography.. so this blue color makes it very special. And another thing that makes it very special is dat each print is unique. What’s special as well.. is that this photograph has been made by the very first woman photographer.. Anna Atkins, an Englisch amateur botanist.. who collected ferns and seaweeds.. and she had the idea of making a real photobook, of the very first time.. a photobook of Brittish algea. And it took her 10 year to complete the small edition of some 25 copies.. one of which is in the Rijksmuseum. Okay, let’s do it!
-Okay! In order to make a blueprint, the first thing you have to do.. is make your paper senstive to light. You can use any sort of resistent paper to do that, I’m using watercolor paper. And you need two chemicals to make a residu to make your paper sensitive to light. Let’s start with this one. You need about 10 to 12 grams of this. These are quite harmless chemicals, but for your own safety.. make sure you read the safety instructions before using them. So it’s a little bit more, isn’t a big deal. From the other one we need about 20 to 25 milligrams. 24.8 Now I’m going to add a 100 milliliters of water to both cups. You just keep stirring untill al the powder is dissolved into the liquid. You can use any type of water to do this, I’m using tap water. Distilled water would be the best choice because that will give your blueprint a nice blue and white contrast. But tapwater is just fine. The green one is a little bit more difficult to dissove in water.. but a little good stirring.. and maybe you can push the lumbs to the side, should do the trick. Right now I’ve got two cups of the chemicals in a liquid format.. the moment I add them together, they become sensitive to light. It’s quite a large amount of liquid.. so if you want to safe this, don’t add them together yet. Because the moment you add them together, they keep developping and stay senstive to light. I’m going to make a lot of blueprints today, so. Now that there mixed together, let’s turn our paper into photo paper. I’ve my watercolor paper right here. I’ve got a sponge, but you can also use a brush. I’m going to dip it into the residu, and I have a little bowl.. to remove any excess liquid. And I’m going to carefuly impregnate the paper. And remember: A little goes a long way. It’s beter to do it a few times then too much. And the most important thing is that you distribute the liquid evenly on your paper. When you impregnate the paper just be careful that your hands are clean.. if you have greasy fingertips, you’ll see them in the end result.. because the ammonium will react with the grease on your fingertips. And you don’t want to see fingerprints on your photo print. As you can see right now the paper is curling up, because it’s wet.. but when it’s dry it will flatten out by itself. Right now it’s a yellow green shade of color. I’m going to let it dry and then we can start making our print. Now that our paper is sensitive to light.. we’re going to make a composition and expose our paper to UV-rays. My paper is right now underneath this piece of fabric because it’s already sensitive to the light.. so I have to protect it, until the moment I’m going to make the composition which is right now. I collected some nice dry waterplants.. which Im going to use for my composition. And to keep it in style of Atkins, I’m going to add a litte title. I’ve already prepared it, I used tracing paper with ink to write a little title.. and put it at the bottom of my compostion. What I’m going to do next is very important.. if you want your composition to be nice and flat.. you need to top it with a glass plate to flatten everything out. I’m using two glass plates, but you can also use a piece of cartboard.. as a bottom plate and then a glass plate on top of it. And because I’m doing this inside, I’m using a facial tanner.. it provides me UV light. But you can also go outside and use the sunlight. I’m also going to top my composition with this crate.. because when you outside the sky distributes the light beautifully and evenly.. I don’t that have that inside so I have to recreate that. So to put my UV light on a higher distance on top of my composition makes it distribue the light more evenly. Of course I have to protect my eyes so I’m using glasses. You can experiment with your time of exposure to the light.. I’m going to use 5 minutes, and then see how far it is. 5 minutes have passed, so let’s see what the result is. Going to carefully.. take off my.. objects. You can already see a little preview of the print. Right now the color changes into.. It’s a mixture of brown orange and grey. And this is how it started.. so you can see the plants blocked the UV light. The next step is my favorite step.. we’re going to rinse of all the chemicals. And see the end result. The next step is to rinse off the chemicals and to fixate our photograph. We can just use regular tap water to do that. And you’re just pushing it into the water. And you can see it.. Turning blue slowly. Im using two baths, just to make sure that most of the residu stays in the first bath. Than I transfer my photo to the second bath, with a little bit cleaner water. To make sure that nothing sticks on the paper in the final step. To check if your paper is really clean, you can look at the drops coming off from the paper. if they’re clear, that means that the chemicals are gone.. but is they’re still a little bit blue or yellow it needs to stay into the water a little bit longer. Shake it a little bit, back and forth. Just be delicate when you do this, because the paper is wet so it becomes a little bit vunerable. Looks clean. Going to transfer it to a towel. I’m just going to take off the excess water. I’m using a paper towel but you can also use an old tea towel.. or a regular towel to do that. And there it is, a blueprint! This was like magic, Angela, thanks.
Any final tips? Yes, I do. Make as many as possible, experiment.. and just have fun. What I like most about blueprints is that you can go out in nature and collect. The whole process is very addictive, so just make a lot of blueprints.. and try different things with lightning, the durance of the lightning, and have fun. Thank you very much and see you next time!