Anna Atkins – witness to an important moment…

•January 8, 2016 • Leave a Comment

As seen from other posts, I have an interest in early photographic processes.

 

Anna Atkins was an important witness to the ‘birth’ of photography in Britain.

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Anna Atkins, not only experimented with cyanotypes but produced the first book illustrated using only new processes in photography -i.e. cyanotypes.

 

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Pages from her book Photographs of British Algae can be viewed here  from the digital collection of the New York Library.

 

The V&A photographic department also holds copies of Anna Atkins work, such as this papaver:

 

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As a botanist and early photographer, Anna Atkins quickly realised the benefit of using the cyanotype process to record specimens of plant life, such as this poppy. Cyanotype was invented by the astronomer Sir John Herschel in 1842. The following year, Atkins became the first person to print and publish a photographically illustrated book, British Algae, Cyanotype Impressions, part 1. To make a ‘photogram’ with the cyanotype process, the photographer laid an object on paper impregnated with iron salts, then exposed the paper to sunlight for a few minutes. When washed in water, the area where the plant had blocked the light remained white, but the area that was exposed came out a rich blue.

 

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and one of my own cyanotypes nearly 180 years later:

Plant in Blue

 

 

 

Paul Lamb – British Harp Supremo

•December 30, 2015 • Leave a Comment

paul lamb

Many know Paul Lamb as a blues harp player, who in his early years learned from Sonny Terry:

 

 

 

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What you may not know is that Paul is using his experience and skills to teach others:

First a demonstration

 

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Then some lessons:

 

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and some more live blues from Paul Lamb and the Kingsnakes (Don’t answer the door)

 

 

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and here Paul shows his virtuosity when playing with Louisianna Red

 

He also shows his enthusiasm for playing!

 

More live playing at the Hideaway in London.

Note the next generation -Ryan Lamb (Paul’s son) on guitar.

 

 

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and a more acoustic session with Chad Strentz (again note the Sonny Terry influence) -The Underdog

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A great and recent version of Preaching the Blues:

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and getting back to Paul and his pure sound playing a Duke Ellington tune:

 

 

Get to see Paul play live – gigs on his web site  – where he is termed “Undisputed Master of the Blues Harmonica”

Cyanotypes – making paper negatives

•September 8, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I have written before about Cyanotypes, particularly about processes.

While waiting for a new box of acetate sheets , which I normally use as digital negatives, I explored the use of paper negatives.

The process is straightforward and gives peoiple more flexibility when using different domestic printers, as some printers are not ‘acetate friendly’.

Firstly, produce a digital negative, by inverting your image and flipping horizontally using photoshop or gimp:

the result can be printed as usual.

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The digital negative

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Oil (olive in this case) is rubbed on the back of the neagtive to make the paper translucent.

Baby oil and other oils may also be used -just experiment!

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After spraying I gently smoothed the paper to allow complete and even coverage.

Surprisingly the paper does not stay too oily -in this case it becomes quite dry. Some people use white bees wax as an alternative, but I did not find it so easy to apply.

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The negative was used to expose on sensitised paper and the result then washed.

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The final print – a little underexposed. This is common while experimenting. The oiled paper negative does not allow so much UV in as an acetate negative and you may have to allow up to 4 times the exposure time as an acetate negative.

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The paper negative

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Paper negative ‘oiled’ and ready for exposing in the sun on sensitised paper.

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The result, still a little under exposed. Still experimenting with times as each negative has different qualities and allows different amounts of UV light.

Worth trying!

Processes such as the above, will be further explained during the exhibition of cyanotypes between 24th and 28th September 2015 , where there will be workshops and demonstrations.

https://photomuserh.wordpress.com/2015/08/05/viewing-the-blues/

Viewing the Blues

•August 5, 2015 • 1 Comment

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Viewing the Blues will be exhibited on 24th-27th September 2015.

http://www.bhavan.net/events/event/358-viewing-the-blues

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What was the origin of the exhibition?

My love of Blues music was the starting point (notice the blog posts on this site).

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Secondly –  the origins of the Blues, starting in West Africa, through slavery and past emancipation.

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Thirdly – the cross-over, after emancipation , to new opportunities for -ex-slaves, to develop and enjoy their music (see Juke joints etc).

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Fourthly –  the interaction between ex-slaves and new indentured labourers (mainly coming from the Indian sub-continent).

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Fifthly –  my interst in photography,particularly image making using the cyanotype and anthotype processes.

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Sixthly  – Sita Harris, my talented wife, invited me to join her in the same space as her exhibition of watercolours

http://www.bhavan.net/events/event/357-my-living-world

and her website:

http://shakunharris.wix.com/sitaharris

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The content of my exhibition will focus on three dimensions:

i. Slavery and emancipation

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The slave trade was driven by a huge demand for agricultural labour. Whether it was the USA, the Caribbean or the Indian Ocean islands, plantations of sugar, tobacco and cotton enslaved thousands of mainly African peoples to a life of hardship and sometimes beatings and particularly harsh punishment.

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on paper

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on cloth

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ii. Blues  and blues musicians

Blues music has its roots in Africa, in the sounds that travelled the slave ships and that evolved during the black people’s struggle in the Americas.

Beginning in the seventeenth century and extending into the nineteenth century after emancipation, the unaccompanied vocal music and call and response singing that slaves brought from West Africa meshed with a variety of other elements –including European church music, popular minstrel songs ragtime music to create this new sound that came to be known as the blues.

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toned print

Bluenotes

Maybe our forefathers couldn’t keep their language together when they were taken away, but this-the blues –was a language we invented to let people know that we had something to say. And we have been saying it pretty strongly ever since.

BB KING at Lagos University , Nigeria 1973.

Bending the Blues The King

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iii.Indentured labour, mainly in the Indian diaspora

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It was slavery that brought West African people to the Americas, brought their music , language and song.

It was slavery that forced these West Africans to keep some semblage of culture by using it in their field hollers and call and response singing.

It was  emancipation that allowed these same people to join together in Juke joints and enjoy playing and singing music that had roots in a number of West African countries.

It was emancipation that brought indentured labourers to work on sugar and cotton plantations.

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The exhibition starts to weave these connections together.

During the afternoons of 27th and 28th September there will be two hour workshops on the cyanotype process.

Participants will learn about cyanotypes by making their own. If they are pleased with their work they can frame their work of art on site.

Each workshop costs £5 which includes the cost of the sun printing light sensitive paper. This will cover the costs of two pieces of sun print (cyanotype) paper, per participant. Email curator@bhavan.net to reserve your place with your name and phone number.

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Notes on the Cyanotype process

Cyanotypes were discovered by Sir John Herschel in 1842 and are created using a solution of iron compounds to produce a cyan blue print. A variety of effects can be achieved by varying the substrate (watercolour, cartridge, cotton cloth) the amount of sensitiser , time under UV and toning.

Initially the process was used for reproducing diagrams (coining the term “blueprint”) and was only later used for photography. One of the first people to use cyanotypes for photographic printing was Anna Atkins who produced the first photographic book of cyanotype prints in 1843.

Paper, card, cloth, glass or any other naturally absorbent material is coated with the Potassium ferricyanide and Ferric ammonium citrate and dried in the dark. Objects or negatives are placed on the material and exposed under UV light and processed by rinsing in water to remove the unreacted iron solution.

Cyanotypes and ‘Alternative’ photographic processes.

 

Alternative processes have a lot to offer in terms of creative freedom, experimentation and beauty. The subtleties offered in tonal variation within blues and after toning, browns and even pinks make each print unique.

I have made them the foundation of my image making as a photographer and teacher.

As well as cyanotypes I have experimented with Anthotypes (using plant and fruit extracts as sensitisers) and the use of recycled materials.

The final image, its beauty and its mystery, can be the objective but personally I also find the practical process, involving experimentation, particularly satisfying.

Some background to the Cyanotype process:

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You may have missed the exhibition at the Barbican -but get inspired by watching this:

Cyanotype toning: Wine Tannin

•August 1, 2015 • Leave a Comment

MP Photography

It probably looks like I have an obsession with toning – I don’t.  Not really.  Among all the reasons that I love working with cyanotype, the bright blue color isn’t one of them.  So, I have to tone my images.  Though I like the shades of black/brown/purple that I get from toning, I’m always looking for a toner that won’t stain the paper and ruin my highlights.   

So far, I’ve been pleased with basic toners like green tea, coffee, and black tea.  Tannic acid works well – when I can get it to work.  It’s also expensive.  I don’t use tannic acid much these days.  The biggest problem with all of these toners is they all stain the paper really badly, tannic acid a little less. 

I’m happy to say that my recent test of Wine Tannin looks good.  I won’t say it’s the holy grail of cyanotype toning, but it barely stained…

View original post 407 more words

INTERNATIONAL BLUES MUSIC DAY 2015

•July 23, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Now in its third year INTERNATIONAL BLUES MUSIC DAY  will be celebrated across the globe on August 1st 2015.

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A day for the international community to unite in celebration of the blues, including it’s many icons, legends & pioneers & to help elevate & support the vast pool of modern day blues artists & practitioners around the world”     
Johnny Childs – Director IBMD

IBMD

 

Celebrate and Educate – everyday!

Ornette Coleman and the art of improvisation

•June 12, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Last week blues guitarist BB King passed away , this week, it is another great –Ornette Coleman, jazz saxophonist.

 

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Having bought his first saxophone with money he had earned from shining shoes, Coleman learned to play it as if it were a toy.

“I didn’t know you had to learn to play,” he told the Guardian.

“I didn’t know music was a style and that it had rules and stuff, I thought it was just sound. I thought you had to play to play, and I still think that.”

This is the approach Coleman had and was a fundamental attitude that led him to be such a great innovator and improvisor.

If there is one joy when you hear jazz,it is through the power of  improvisation.

 

Ornette Coleman Trio 1966

 

The free flow of connected and sometimes even unconnected sounds, in response  to one of your fellow musicians.

It is the wonder of creativity that if you are watching live,means that you are witnessing something that has never been heard before, and if not recorded at the time, may never be heard in thesame way again.

Such is the power of improvisation.

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one quote tells it all:

In 1986, the guitarist Pat Metheny recounted the experience of playing alongside Coleman in full improvisatory flow:

““The challenge in this situation is that sometimes Ornette plays and stops, then I have to play.

The other night in Washington, we did this tune called Broadway Blues, and he played the most perfect musical statement I’ve ever heard.

I gave it my best, but I have no pretenses of improvising at that level.

 

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……and what influenced him?

“Actually, when I was in elementary school, I saw a saxophone.

A band came to my school, and I saw this guy get up and play this solo.

And I said, ‘Oh man, what is that! That must be fantastic!’

 

 

 

In some ways, as educators, or parents, or friends, we must give as many opportunities to children to listen, to watch musicians and to experience playing an instrument to have the opportunity to be inspired.

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A quote from Robert Wyatt:

 “What has always warmed my heart,” he writes, “has little to do with his influence on younger improvisors.

It is the timeless vocal beauty of the actual sequences of notes and phrases he could come up with, and the feeling of pure living joy of playing they can communicate.”

 

 
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