Japanese seascapes: Set for exhibition in Britain, the spellbinding blue cyanotype print from a 4×5 inch negative, above, emulates the blue color of a Hiroshige u-kiyoe. A silver-gelatin rendering of the theme with an 8×10 inch camera, below. Photographs copyright Wynn White.
Cyanotypes, basically “blue prints” were invented by English scientist Sir John Hershel in 1842. Unlike black and white photographs that are set in silver, cyanotypes use a solution of iron compounds that, when processed under UV light, transform into their distinctive blue coloration. Contemporaneous with the invention and use of cyanotype prints in photography, the delightful Japanese art form u-kiyoe began to flourish during Japan’s Tokugawa period (1603-1867). U-kiyoe were mass-produced woodblock prints with expressive patterns and colors, depicting the daily life of the new capital and other cities by masters such as Utamaro, Hokusai and Hiroshige. Extremely popular, u-kiyoe were much loved by all, not only inside Japan, but internationally too. Many French Impressionists and Post-impressionists, Van Gogh for example, found them to be of great fascination. Over time, the dramatic use of blue color evolved within u-kiyoe, which in turn Hiroshige used to special effect in his famous woodblock series, “Fifty-three Stations Along the Tokaido Road.”
An historic u-kiyoe woodblock print by Hiroshige, above.
The two historic art forms will merge beginning 6 July at Britain’s Parabola Theatre in Cheltenham, when Hiroshige’s u-kiyoe prints will be presented along with blue cyanotype prints of Japan by American photographer Wynn White, a member of the distinguished analog photography group Art Photo Asia (APA). Japan-based for decades, Wynn White has used cameras as large as 8×10 inch to photograph Japanese landscapes, architecture, people and details. A few years ago he moved from 8×10 inch to 4×5 inch film size because of the spontaneity the latter offers and at the same time, its dynamic resolution.
Working much like a chemist, Wynn mixes most of his own darkroom chemicals from scratch. Besides working in the silver gelatin medium he practices a variety of alternative process mediums, including salt printing, cyanotype, kallitype, Vandyke, argyrotype and platinum-palladium. More information about Wynn’s work is available at http://www.wynnwhitephoto.com/
According to Wynn: “I thought at first of creating salt prints, using water from Tokyo Bay for the exhibition. Later I realized historically synchronous cyanotype prints would be sensational, as they are highly reminiscent of the unique blue color of Hiroshige’s woodblocks.” Aside from cyanotypes, a wide selection of Wynn’s superb black and white silver-gelatin prints of the Japanese seacoast will be presented at the British event.
Wynn White (second from left) with APA members (left to right) Hideaki Anzai, Coju Hemmi, Minoru Okabe, Masato Okazaki, Keiji Doi, Hirotaka Kasuga, above. For more information see: https://ja-jp.facebook.com/artphotoasia