Developing Cyanotypes on Glass

Very often in photography, things go very wrong. In this video, Nicole Small shares her successes and failures in developing cyanotypes.

Cyanotypes are a type of prints made from an old-time darkroom technique. You might be more familiar with them being called blueprints. The technique can also be used to create images, though, as Nicole expertly shares on her channel.

In this particular video, Nicole shares the technique but in a modified way that she hasn’t herself done before: she prints her works on glass! Additionally, she tries to "tone" her work. Cyanotypes, which are naturally blue, may be toned to yield other colors. For example, you can tone them with coffee to get a nice dark brown print. Her process really is a wild ride. Will it work or not? A bit of both, really. In the video, Nicole’s first print doesn’t develop properly, and she is left with just a piece of glass. Her second print does work but is left with some artifacts from the emulsion process.

In developing as an artist, you can only really grow if you try new things. If you continue to do what you’ve always done, then you won’t really create those opportunities for yourself to become better at your craft. Although Nicole’s first print doesn’t yield a result, it’s not a failure. She tried something, and it didn’t work, but she still learned from it. It’s less about whether something works or not and more about what you learned from the experience.

This is a great lesson in the age of social media. We often only see people succeeding or doing well or getting results. “Live your best life,” as they say. We rarely see when things don’t work. It’s really great for Nicole to share the entire process, good and bad. I personally found the image that didn’t take to be more instructive. It’s a lesson for all to not tone works on glass. But it's also a lesson in trying new things and sharing your work; if she hadn't done this and shared her results, we wouldn't have known to not do it ourselves.

In the comments below, it’d be great to hear how about a time or situation where you tried something and failed but then also, how you learned from that and tried again for success.

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