Honoring history: hand-painted cyanotypes - chasinglight

Harini Krishnamurthy

Photographer, Visual Artist, Coder

This series is a tribute to historical traditions and processes that have influenced my artistic development and connect me to my cultural heritage. The process of photographing my niece’s first Bharatanatyam (an ancient Indian dance form) performance resulted in a new-found appreciation for historical art forms and inspired this work. Each image is a cyanotype created from a digital photograph of Bharatanatyam poses. Cyanotypes are one of the oldest known photographic processes and are made by placing an object or negative on hand-coated paper and exposing it to UV light. The cyanotype is then painted using vivid colors like red, green, yellow and gold. The use of painting is meant to evoke the tradition of artists who painstakingly hand-painted photographs in the late-nineteenth century, as well as the style of Tanjore paintings, which are South Indian paintings that were first made in the mid-seventeenth century and make heavy use of bright colors and gold leaf.

NOTE: The images are all available for sale. Please DM me for details.

More about the process

Every image begins as a digital photograph. I process the photograph in Photoshop and create a negative of the original image. This "digital negative" is then printed on transparency paper in a way that is suitable for use with the cyanotype process. To create a cyanotype from the digital negative, I hand-coat watercolor paper with cyanotype chemicals in a light-safe darkroom. Once the paper is dry, I place the digital negative created earlier on the paper and expose it to UV light. After the exposure is completed, the print is washed in running water to get the blue-toned cyanotype. After letting the cyanotype dry, I use acrylic paint to paint the sections I am interested in.

While the initial image is a digital photograph, all other parts of the process are done by hand and involve a lot of variables (for instance - chemical coating consistency for the cyanotypes, paint ratios for the colors, paper texture).  It can take a few days to produce a single piece.



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