Cyanotypes And The Sweep Project
Cyanotype is an early photographic process developed in 1842. The emulsion is painted onto paper, developed by UV light (you can actually develop the image in the sun) and fixed by water. It creates a blue image which has become it's signature. Cyanotype was used by architects to reproduce their drawings, hence the term "blueprint."
I am using cyanotypes to document The Sweep Project for a number of reasons:
First, I love making them! I am developing a new kind of hybrid cyanotype, one that is part standard cyanotype (that is, uses an image as a "negative") and part photogram (contact print made by placing objects on the paper). The resulting image becomes a document of place and object. The images are all known or suspected Underground Railroad "stops" or "routes". The objects are all collected from the sites where the images were photographed. I have become particularly enamored with cigarette butts and seeds from the sites. The cigarette butts contain tobacco and cotton, so the represent two industries that supported the plantation/slave system that developed in the United States. I often pull the butts apart so you can see the individual components. The seeds are a metaphor for hope and promise.
I think the blue tones of the print suggest hope and promise, which is especially important when the sites themselves often feel lost and forgotten. (The Eagle Hotel in Wilmington, for example, is boarded up and for sale).
Conceptually, I love the fact the the cyanotype process was developed at the time the Underground Railroad was operating. There's great synergy there. Also, I like the the first uses of cyanotypes includes both botanical studies and architectural drawings. Put another way, cyanotypes have a history of documentation as well as building for the future.
Finally, I love that every cyanotype print is 100% original. These are not digital prints, and I could not reproduce one if I wanted to. There are too many variables. For example, the quality of sunlight on any given day, and the time of day, both effect the tonal qualities of any given print. So each cyanotype is a unique document, a unique artwork.
Buying a cyanotype is a great way to support the Sweep Project!
Each cyanotype is an original handmade artwork made of archival materials. You can find Sweep Project cyanotypes in a variety of sizes to fit any budget.
Buy a Print/Give One Away
One of the primary ways I use fund from the sell of cyanotypes is to create more prints that I can give away to people I meet during the Joliet to Crete Performance Pilgrimage. I carry a small number of prints with me to give to people brave enough/ curious enough to stop me to ask what I am doing.
locations featured in the prints (more to come!)
These are the locations I am currently working with. More to come!