Blue wonderful


Co-founder and director of Chennai Photo Biennale (CPB), Varun Gupta, is all set to share the joys of the cyanotype process, one of the oldest printing processes in the world, in an upcoming workshop at Sunaparanta Goa Centre for the Arts, Altinho. NT BUZZ details


Photographer Varun Gupta enjoys working with older photography processes, be it film, wet plate collodion negative, cyanotype, and other alternative printing techniques.

“I think cyanotype, salt printing, collodion, etc, are processes that make you slow dance. I think as a commercial photographer I have shot so much that I can’t take pictures with those digital cameras anymore. I often leave those in my cooling cabinet and I only travel with film cameras whenever I go on a holiday,” he says, adding that this process is all about slowing down. “It is about the zen, trusting yourself, and not wanting to create 100 or 1000 of photographs that create digital noise and pollution in my opinion. So, in my personal journey as a photographer I slow down, taking less pictures but more meaningful pictures,” he says.

And now the Chennai-based co-founder and director of Chennai Photo Biennale (CPB) is all set to host a cyanotype workshop on April 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Sunaparanta Centre for the Arts, Altinho.

Elaborating on what cyanotype is, Gupta tells us that this is one of the oldest printing processes in the world, invented by John Herschel in 1842. And this technique combines salts of iron and spherical salts and effectively when mixed this chemistry together produces a light sensitive chemical that when exposed to light hardens and turns a cyan colour. “So that is where the name ‘cyanotype’ comes from. It is the cyan colour that the chemical turns once it is exposed to sunlight effectively and it reacts to UV light,” says Gupta, adding that this technique is perfect for Indian conditions and especially in Goa which is quite the sunshine state in summer.

The upcoming cyanotype workshop will focus on the basics of cyanotype, the purpose of this alternative photography process and a little about its history. As part of the practical part, everybody will get to mix their own chemicals, make their own prints, coat paper with chemical, print both objects or flowers, petals, textured fabric, old saree borders, feathers, etc.

Gupta says that people have brought all kinds of objects to workshops in the past. “These objects you can place on top of the coated paper, expose to the sun and it creates a beautiful image from that. We also ask everyone to send photographs to us and these photographs are printed into digital negatives so everyone will have a negative of their picture that they are going to print using cyanotype,” he says, adding that it is going to be a fun day in the sun, wherein he is going to work with people as they make their images. The participants will learn how to first make prints, then also how to change the colour of prints using coffee and tea. “It is a very beautiful process and what is great is that it is something that one can take forward from here and do it at home. And in fact, we are bringing some kits that will be available for people to purchase to take home,” he says.

The workshop is being held in collaboration with CPB Learning Lab, the community engagement wing of the Chennai Photo Biennale Foundation (a non-profit trust engaged in promoting photographic art, meaningful social-cultural discussion and educational activities). And Gupta further says that they would definitely like to come to Goa more. “This is their first collaboration with Sunaparanta and we will like to do more projects together, possibly more cyanotype workshops and also different photography workshops but eventually some kind of a showcase,” he says, adding that in Chennai they also teach photography to school children, to special needs children, and work with a lot of local government schools in Chennai and children from under-served communities. “It is a very beautiful process where we use photography as a medium to explore subjects like gender, climate change, etc. So that is the kind of work hopefully we will get to do in Goa in the next few years but CPB is coming up in December this year 2021 so we are definitely hoping to pop up some way in Goa so that we can get people curious about the Biennale and see if they want to visit the other side of the country,” he says.

(Last date to register is April 10.
Limited seats. Details 0832-2421311/
[email protected])