Photographers learn historic 19th-century photographic process at UA Little Rock

Photo by BENJAMIN KRAIN â??06/14/19--.UA Little Rock photography instructor Joli Livaudais, left, works with participates of a Gum Bichromate Printing Summer Intesive Workshops in Art. Students, teachers and artists attending the workshop were taught the historical process of printing color photographs in the darkroom using a gum bichromate process. Watercolor pigments allows for custom colors which give the artist complete control over the color palette. Full color is achieved with multiple, hand-applied layers similar to screen printing

Erasto Carrananza, a photographer since 1989, has been studying historic photographic processes for more than 15 years. 

“I’m in the middle of my master’s degree in visual arts, and this is one of the four historic photographic processes that I want to use in my final project,” Carrananza said. “That is why I am here to learn this process.”

The former architect traveled from his home in Monterey, Mexico, to learn how print photographers use the chemical cyanotype process, a non-toxic, historical light-based printing process discovered in 1842.

Joli Livaudais, assistant professor of photography, taught a week-long workshop on the process June 10-14 in the Windgate Center of Art and Design. The workshop is part of UA Little Rock’s artWORKS Artist Workshops Series, which provides a learning community dedicated to creativity and growth through the making and understanding of the visual arts. 

This simple and inexpensive technique yields gorgeous handmade prints in Prussian blue and has many options for toning and manipulation of the final print,” Livaudais said.

Carrananza’s desire to learn historic photographic processes stems from his desire to preserve these dying arts for the next generation. 

“In 2000, digital photography took flight,” he said. “I don’t like digital photography because I like to use film. At that time, I started to seek printing processes back in the early days of photography. The main reason to learn these processes is to reach the younger generation and not lose the information over time. If just one student learns the process, it’s a win.”

Melissa Gill, a professor of drawing and printmaking at Hendrix College, was inspired to learn the chemical cyanotype process after seeing her students use it.

Workshop participants develop photographs in a darkroom at the Windgate Center of Art and Design using a 19th-century photographic process. Photo by Ben Krain.
Workshop participants develop photographs in a darkroom at the Windgate Center of Art and Design using a 19th-century photographic process. Photo by Ben Krain.

“I’ve seen my students use this process at Hendrix, and I thought it was so beautiful that I wanted to learn it,” Gill said. “This is working with layers of color, and that is exactly how a printmaker works. I wanted to see how this process could inform my work. Now that I know how it works, I can better advise my students who do this work.”

Dave Erickson, a commercial photographer and drone pilot from Milwaukee, traveled from Wisconsin with a friend to attend the workshop. The two have plans to set up a darkroom when they get back to explore the chemical cyanotype process as a hobby. 

“I’ve always had a varied, robust interest in photography,” Erickson said. “I have a lot of respect for people who have mastered this process. There is a lot of artistry involved. It’s not as clean cut as just developing a photograph. It takes a lot of patience.” 

In the upper right photo, UA Little Rock professor Joli Livaudais, left, works with participants of a week-long art workshop on the chemical cyanotype process. Photo by Ben Krain.

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