Back to Blue

Some giant geckos still consider my darkroom their territory and every time I enter the room they first look at me for a few seconds as if I were an alien from another planet, then they run in all directions to hide and while at it they make that funny noise with they bodies. Thanks to these guys the room needs a regular cleaning and yesterday while sorting out the mess I made a discovery of some unused cyan coated sheets of paper. When the opportunity arises, never miss your chance to test out coated paper, no matter how old or damaged it may first look!

The horizontal image is from one of my series of underwater portraits from last year, and the two vertical ones are from a street performance created by an artist friend El Hadj Keita together with Pap Bouba & The Family. Keita is a man of many talents and makes amazing sculptures and in this particular situation they had made a street performance called “Breaking the Chains” for the Dak’Art Biennale and I took some photos of the performers.

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Overexposed edges and all sort of other imperfections are not such a bad thing. They are the thing.

 

Thanks but no tanks

One recurrent dream of mine is to find myself deep in the ocean on some sort of a mission, or diving deep into the sea and returning on the surface. While in the depths of the sea I seem to have no need to breathe and being underwater appears a prolonged and pleasant experience. Having been a swimmer all my life, I actually never thought of diving until more recently when I started an underwater photography project. Now I am discovering the whole world of free diving and would like to learn it in practice and develop skills related to this sports. I am not so much interested in going into any record depths or anything like that, rather I would just love to be able to stay under water for a couple of minutes and make the most of that – and take more pictures ! Among some friends that I have photographed I have already witnessed this fantastic transformation from their first being somewhat uncomfortable when under water and then getting used to it and being able to relax.

Water – compared to air – is so “thick” that is is a challenge to get good contrasts when working with cyanotype. While I am still experimenting, I am also hoping to get better paper in the future (I am now using Canson) with more texture and higher densities of blue.

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“ID goes deep” from the series Xóot (2017)  © Jarmo Pikkujämsä

Xóot is a series of underwater portraits printed on fabric that I will exhibit in the Dakar Biennale 2018 OFF in May. I am also printing a larger number of these portraits in cyanotype that I will publish later this year in the form of a a photography book with the same title. This sample portrait “ID goes deep” is murky on purpose as the print is made of a photograph of two layers.

I am using #goesdeep to trace back to all my current and future work with underwater portraits available online.

Dust and wrinkles

I’m encountering new hurdles in producing my new cyanotype series and I’m not talking about birds targeting my contact glass, or geckos running over my drying prints. Suddenly I don’t have enough material to work on! So far I have had my negatives printed on transparents in Europe with the first batch for this particular series made last September when I was on a short trip. Now, it appears, the same printing company has let me down at the very last minute. I had sent the files over – it actually took me a day or so to send 25 photographs with these bad connections – and yesterday a friend was going to pick them up just a day before his trip to Senegal and discovered that the war had not been done.

Living in the Sahel region has its benefits: throughout the year you have a lot of sun, which is just great for developing your photos. Then in August & September you may have a couple of days when there is no time to even think about photography because you’re either busy trying to prevent the rain from entering the house, or you are busy trying to remove all that water that has just flooded in. Then in winter months, on and off, you have days like today with so much dust that can barely see the sun. With the help of a strong wind from the east the red dust finds its way in through almost anything; in the case of this house it’s mostly from between the doors and thresholds. Sweeping is an almost laughable exercise, because when you are finished you need to start all over as new dust has just landed when you turned your back. No chance for developing photographs on days like this – or even taking any photos! It’s just better to stay indoors and avoid asthma. I did adventure outdoors today on one occasion though, with high hopes that now that my friend’s luggage will not have my negatives in it, I would be able to get them from a local print shop. As a test, this is what I got:

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On a more positive note, this friend who is running the print shop is ready to turn the world over in hope of finding better transparents that would not melt in the process. Despite his admirable energy I may have to adjust my project time wise, which is fine, or I may have to make a quick trip to Dakar and look around for better transparents some time in early 2018. To be continued.. with Happy New year wishes to each and everyone!

Blue is the new black

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“Rescue” – Cyanotype 30 x 40 cm  © Jarmo Pikkujämsä

I started my cyanotype series a week ago and the results are very promising. I knew that I would enjoy this process, its simplicity and the beauty of the hues of blue, but I didn’t know I would love it so much! I could now spend hours and days just developing more and more photographs!

There are people who think of weekdays as colours. I have always filled much longer, rather undefined, periods with one or a couple of colours in my life and right now it’s blue and purple, very dark purple. I feel that I need those colours, I want to see them around me. So what’s better than developing photos in cyanotype! This falls rather neatly into my preparing of a story book on water and underwater elements.

As for purple, I had a fabric dyed in deep purple by a friend and I hang it up on the wall of my photo studio. I have already used it in a couple of shoots and when not shooting, even staring at it across my desk is very soothing. I read somewhere that it is possible to get shades of purple even in cyanotype, I wonder how. I have not yet figured out all the variables that can affect the result in cyanotype and I have so far developed on paper with one layer of coating only, but in some of my photos there actually are very dark blues getting rather close to purple!

I have a funny feeling that I will be glued to this technique for a long time, perhaps a lifetime! Never mind the small constraints such as birds shitting on my contact glass, or geckos’ poop on my prints when I’ve left them to dry. As it happens, a very big gecko has moved into my dark room and I need some long term solutions if we are to share this space…