Jul 15, 2021
am - First of all thank you very much for your contribution to our project. Can you please introduce yourself for us?
EC - I am an independent artist and researcher from the North York Moors National Park. My work deals with the ecological crisis, in particular the emotional trauma and our material relationship to the nonhuman world. To do so, I adapt traditional analogue processes into animation, as well as innovating new animation techniques. I also utilise natural materials, such as animations on wood, leaves, and soil, to create a material link between the work and the natural world.
From a research perspective, I am the leader of the Northern Sustainable Darkroom, and have authored two papers on the subject of ecology and photography. Specifically, 'The Ecology of Grain', which is an environmental and ethical assessment of gelatine in analogue film, and 'Stare into the Caffenol to Reveal Your Future', which proposes a decentralised network of darkrooms operating sustainably as an alternative to mainstream photo production. I studied an MA at the Royal College of Art, in London, UK.
am - - How did you start in photography?
EC - I actually began my photographic life when working with dogs! I did not study art at secondary school (high school), and was a dog walker for many years. I bought an entry-level DSLR, where I then progressed to landscape photography. Shooting landscapes for a year, I became frustrated with the limitations of digital - particularly the lack of physical engagement with the medium. I undertook a BA in photography at Falmouth University, where I then began to experiment with analogue formats, and ultimately alternative processes.
am - How did you come to the idea to make a video using still cyanotypes?
EC - For a month I had planned and prepared an experimental piece about increased flooding from climate change, as a follow-up to my hand-printed film on wildfires (using the lumen process). I had wanted to print this entirely in cyanotype, as I felt the aesthetic would have paired well with visuals of water. However, realising the cost to create an entire cyanotype video, I had to put the project on hold - as I was focused on setting up the Northern Sustainable Darkroom. It was then that I was contacted by 'Globe Town Records', based in Shoreditch, London. They had seen some of my work on Instagram, particularly my animations on soil, and were keen to get in touch. One of their artists, 'Tycho Jones', needed a music video for his song 'Don’t Be Afraid', that had found popularity during the coronavirus crisis.
am - Did you print the cyanotypes using sunlight or how was the process to make them?
EC - At first, I tried printing in the sun, but this proved to be too unreliable when doing 100 a day! So I was generously donated the use of a UV bed by MAP charity, an arts educational charity for young people. Designed for exposing large screen prints, I was able to expose about 25 prints at a time, using ten-minute exposures. After exposure, I rushed them back to my darkroom in a light sealed box, where I would then wash.
To save water, I opted for a static wash. Typically, you are advised to wash cyanotypes in running water - but for such a mammoth project, this would have consumed an inordinate amount of water. Instead, I used two trays filled with water, switching the prints between. I would also spray the prints with white vinegar, to exaggerate the mid-tones and bring out some blues. Again, I used white vinegar as a more sustainable alternative to hydrogen peroxide - but you can use lemon juice or other acidic household ingredients.
am - What inspires your work in general? Do you work with other printing processes too?
EC - I am inspired a lot by hand-animation techniques, and people who adapt alternative processes in unusual ways to print on different materials, found objects, etc. Often I will see a still process and ask - can this be animated? If so, then I give it a go - no matter how labour-intensive! I have created animations using a variety of photo and print processes - for example, I have created animated using lumen prints, pinholes, photograms, 35mm stills, and more.
am - Who are your favourite photographers / artists?
EC - Most of the photographers that have inspired me across the years have been alternative processors. Jill Enfield was a huge influence on me, particularly her guide to alternative processes book. Ky Lewis was also a great influence on me in those earlier years, along with Barbara J. Dombach. And of course, all the other coordinators at the Sustainable Darkroom influence me every day - especially Hannah Fletcher, our founder!
am - What is your favourite photo book?
EC - I love Antony Cairns' entire photo book collection. His way of utilising different materials - such as computer punch cards, e-reader screens, glass, and so on - as photographic mediums, is really influential (although of course I utilise natural materials instead).
am - Thank you very much for your time and contribution to analog magazine.
EC - Thanks for having me!