Fairly certain that I had unwittingly become New Jersey's "ground zero" for the recent Enterovirus D68 outbreak, I found myself home sick for several days last week, along with my eight year-old who was similarly affected. Together we hung out all day indoors despite the perfect weather, nursing what felt like twin colds from hell.
Round about the end of day two, and desperate for any screen-free alternative to Minecraft and KhanAcademy, we came across a previously unopened gift that our girls received over the summer from their cousins.
The sturdy box (pictured here) measured roughly 8'' x 8'' and contained a similarly sized and really well-written 80-page booklet by Paul Grivell. The book, entitled The Sunlight Print Kit: Materials, Techniques, and Projects for Homemade Photography summarizes the history of photography in general and cyanotype image-making in particular. Along with that, were ten sheets of light sensitive cyanotype paper, a black felt marker and a mix of different silhouettes printed on acetate to use for making contact prints.
While the gift was clearly awesome in that it was thoughtful and would provide the girls with a meaningful learning experience, it was also clear that it was the kind of gift that would require a certain amount of focus, time and space that just aren't easily had in our tiny and perpetually bustling home – which is why it sat on a shelf, until last week.
So here's our first effort. We snuck out of the house to pluck some fern fronds for our contact print. At one point we must have accidentally nudged the acetate that we used to cover the leaves a bit and on top of that the ferns were clinging to the acetate because of static electricity – so the edges are not quite as sharp as they might have been if we used a heavy piece of glass, which we'll be sure to do next time.
The developing process was so simple and relatively clean (as I recalled my days in the darkroom) that an actual kid DID do it. In the end, the little imperfections didn't matter – especially to my daughter. She was every bit as amazed as I was when I made my first pinhole image and that made it the highlight of our sick day.