Art Students Discover What's Old Is New Again

Consider it a new spin on one of the oldest photographic printing processes.

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Working together, upper school students in the Studio Art Major and Darkroom classes created cyanotypes, known for their shades of cyan blue resulting from exposure to ultraviolet light. Cyanotypes were traditionally used for blueprints by architects and engineers. Photographers were drawn to their versatility as well.

Earlier this month, Cheryl Hajjar, chair of the Visual Arts Department, and Rachel Langosch, upper school photography teacher, invited Jason Tucker, an artist whose practice predominantly includes cyanotypes, to Masters. Tucker is a graduate of The Oxbow School, an art school in Napa, California, where he now serves as the director of admissions. 

Langosh said, “Cheryl and I talked about Jason’s visit, and she said, ‘This would be perfect for my class, too, so let's collaborate.’ We combined the classes to work on it together. Jason came up with the idea to have everybody work on one big mural piece.” 

Samantha Weber ’25, a studio art major student, explained that “Cyanotyping as a process consists of using a photosensitive material, which for us was fabric, and manipulating the light it is exposed to in order to capture an image. The final coloring is blue and can be lighter or darker depending on how long it is exposed and what solution is used to stop the process. As a class, we were given the opportunity to work with laser-printed negatives of our own photographs. The negatives would then be placed on top of the fabric, and left in the sun to be ‘impressed’ onto it.”

Hajjar added that students used “leaves, flowers and drawings we made on acetate using black crayon.” She noted that “Since my class had been working on engravings (printmaking) up until Jason’s visit, we took the opportunity to use cyanotype as a photo process but also a form of printmaking.”

“The final cloth came out looking delightfully chaotic,” Weber shared. “It is the combined work of many students, and each part has its own vibe to it, which I find pretty cool. Ms. Hajjar used the shadow of a bicycle, one of the Oxbow artists used some nearby dirt and a plant, and some students even put garbage or their hands on the treated fabric.”

“I find cyanotypes to be a nice way for students to understand the relationship between positive and negative space, between the way light affects light-sensitive paper, and they see it actually happening in front of their eyes,” said Langosch.

Weber enjoyed working with Langosch’s photography class and utilizing the outdoors as part of the project: “I think that the inter-class activities are a great manifestation of Masters' strong sense of community, and I consider them incredibly valuable to both an academic and creative setting.”

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