A little while ago The Camera Store started stocking a new, old product, called Sunprints. There are two varieties, one comes with an acrylic sheet, necessary to squish things down and keep still on the paper, and the other variety comes without the acrylic, both are available in two-sizes. Sunprints are too much fun, and super easy to use. You will need: the sun (duh), some water in a bath, and a subject to squish (preferably not squirmy… but you decide).
We’re pretty excited by these things, so on a recent fall day, with summer fading into fall, and falling into winter, I went out to make some with a few other Camera Store folk, Rosanna (pictured), and Jill (who took boss pictures). The process is pretty basic, you find something you want to make a print of, you mash it on to the paper with the acrylic, you wait around for five minutes, then you dunk the paper into water to fix the image, and then you dry your print. The result is a blue and white, eerily beautiful outline of whatever you decided to make as your subject. There are a number of entertaining side applications too, like making Sunprint origami, making prints from transparencies, or even loading the paper into pinhole type cameras.
The great thing about these kits is that they are so much fun, you get near immediate results, and they get you thinking about the old way of making pictures, before the digital era. They’re admirable teaching tools, as they can lead into discussions about science, history, and art, for kids from ages about age 8 to the age of child-at-heart (ie. old guys like me). Pulchritudinous cyanotypes: pretty Sunprints ⎯ from the 19th Century laboratory into your 21st Century bass den ⎯ this is a great gift, even during the winter months, when we Northerners get a few minutes of sun a day to steal. It reminds me of a line from a book on being blue, that I used to love:
“Then there is the cold Canadian climate and the color of deep ice. The gill of a fish. Lush grass. The whale. Jay. Ribbon. Fin. . . . Once, one blushed blue, though to blush like a blue dog, as the cliché went then, was not to blush at all.”