Associate art professor, John Banasiak, enjoys exploring older photography processes.
“They seem to offer some new directions to potentially experiment with further investigation,” Banasiak said. “Sometimes people tend to forget about the older processes and don’t really explore it or review it to see how it might apply to contemporary times and issues.”
When Banasiak introduced this process to his photography class last summer, the exhibit Vermillion in Blue was created.
Vermillion in Blue is located in Gallery 110 of the Warren M. Lee Center for Fine Arts building. The exhibit will be there until Feb. 15 with a reception to be held Jan. 27 from 5 to 7:30 p.m.
Alison Erazmus, Director of University Art Galleries, said the process used for the works in Gallery 110 feature cyanotypes which use chemicals and UV light to produce a blue picture.
“Basically, you’re mixing two chemicals in powder form with water,” Erazmus said. “It sounds like it’s not that safe but what I always tell my photo students is that what you have in your cleaning closet is probably more toxic and dangerous.”
After coating some type of a fibrous surface, which can be cloth or paper, the chemicals soak into the surface and dry, Erazmus said.
“When you expose it to UV light by bringing it outside and put it in water it develops and makes the picture blue,” Erazmus said.
The more common name for these prints is blue prints, Erazmus said.
Banasiak said he enjoys introducing students to this process because, generally, the students find it interesting, magical and fun to play with.
“Some of the students take it on and explore how they can make it personal as an element as they try to invent their own visual image,” Banasiak said. “Some people really get in to it and others do it and they have in the back of their mind that they can bring it out when the theme or the subject matter might apply or more powerfully present the ideas that they are working with.”
Sophomore Miranda Arnold said the idea of using student work in an exhibit is great.
“If students are working on a project in class everyone should be able to see their work,” Arnold said. “I would be honored if my work was showcased because it would have the potential to inspire other people.”
Erazmus said the process is considered an alternative process because most contemporary photographers use digital cameras.
“The students have a lot of room to explore with the different processes,” Erazmus said. “They don’t have to necessarily be photo students, but most of them are.”
Arnold said she likes the idea of using an older photography process in a contemporary way.
“It gives a current view of places that might not have been there when the process was used more,” Arnold said. “It’s easily accessible and puts an older spin on the photos.”
Banasiak said the process seems to go in a different direction than more high-tech photography would.
“You have image-making that’s connected to complex machinery that you really can’t even do unless you have the proper equipment,” Banasiak said. “With this process, it’s really primitive. For most of the images, we haven’t even used electricity. You can make your own camera, make your own film, make an exposure outside, bring it in, process it in a dark room under candlelight and the image comes up using very basic chemicals.”
The idea of creating an exhibit with photography only from the Vermillion area just happened, Banasiak said.
For Banasiak, he said his photos were created when he found an underwater camera at a secondhand store.
“I loaded the camera up with film and took my kids to the Vermillion pool,” Banasiak said. “As we went there I took the camera along and we took some underwater shots of people swimming around and I developed the film and made proofs and enlarged it. I figured since my images dealt with water and a flow and a current, using this blue printing process I could create an undercurrent feeling in the brush stroke and the color itself seemed like water and liquid.”
Erazmus said it is nice to have so many interpretations of the Vermillion community from the student project.
“It’s interesting because you really have to go out into the community to make work like this,” Erazmus said. “To be a photographer you have to interact with your environment and the people in that environment. It’s nice to have such diversity and understanding in a town that is very small. Just because it’s small doesn’t mean you see everything, so that’s why you need to look at art.”
Banasiak said the idea to name the exhibit Vermillion in Blue came to him because the process creates a blue image.
“I thought a good title would be Vermillion, which is a color, and blue for Vermillion in Blue. The project involves students working with this process and using the creative potential from it.”
Reach reporter Emily Niebrugge