29 January 2020
HOW do you immortalise an ever-changing process? This is the question US artist Meghann Riepenhoff set out to answer with Ecotone, a series of cyanotypes that capture the many faces of water – and the fragility of our relationship with nature as Earth’s waters are altered by such things as industry and climate change.
Cyanotypes are a photographic printing method invented in 1842 by John Herschel. Paper is coated with a mixture of iron compounds that, when exposed to light, create images in a rich blue. Although it is perhaps best known for creating blueprints for technical drawings, the process was also used by Anna Atkins in the 19th century to capture silhouettes of ferns and seaweeds by placing them directly onto reactive paper.
Inspired by Atkins, Riepenhoff coats her paper with a homemade cyanotype emulsion. The sheets are then introduced to water. In Ecotone, her focus is precipitation. Rain, fog and snow are used to make special effects – alongside chance deposits of salt, dirt and sand – before sunlight gradually exposes her pieces. For different Ecotone images, she hangs the sheets over tree branches and even buries them in ice.
Her cyanotypes are never fully chemically fixed, allowing them to change with their environments. A static record is created by photographing the prints as the images evolve.
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