Alternative Processes: Cyanotypes, with John Metoyer


Today, we feature another piece in a mini-series of posts on alternative processes in photography. For today's post, we have John Metoyer talking about his Cyanotype process up above. If this interests you and you'd like to expand your creative palette, the F295 Annual Symposium might be the spot for you to do so.

John Metoyer Series “Blue Dreams”

- Cyanotypes 

In 1842, Sir John Herschel published a paper called “On the Action of the Rays of the Solar Spectrum on Vegetable Colours, and on Some New Photographic Processes” in which he outlined his discoveries with the cyanotype process. 

Cyanotype is a process based on iron salts, rather than silver salts. It uses only two inexpensive chemicals, ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide, which results in a print with beautiful Prussian Blue tones. The process was used extensively from the 1880's through the 1920’s. It was so popular by 1872, that one could purchase commercially-manufactured cyanotype paper.

Later, the process was used widely by architects and engineers for the creation of blueprints. In the beginning, however, the cyanotype was mainly used to create camera-less photographs of botanical specimens. 

Historically, photography has been utilized for documenting moments in time, people, and things. It has been used as evidence of what exists, or has existed. Though we sometimes know that what we are viewing is not always the complete truth (Matthew Brady’s Civil War images for example), we allow the reality presented in the photograph to become what we accept as truth. John Metoyer’s images are the creation and documentation of fabricated realities.

John Metoyer, Landscapes series, toned cyanotype

He views his image-making as a merging of 19th, 20th, and 21st century processes, tools, and techniques. He uses digital manipulation and photography’s rich history to create what have been described as, “…strange, deeply moving, often terrifying, yet beautiful photographs [that] come from a unique, magically real world of his own making, a world that can both comfort and disturb” (Wood, 2008).