Cyanotype Landscapes

Large Format, Digital Negative, Botanicals

3 min read by Mat Hughes.
Published on .
Granite, Thistle Cove, WA, 2022.

I recently returned from the big lap around Australia with my family. It was a chance to unwind after an intense couple of years and reconnect with the landscape.

I make photographs on film using a large format 4x5 view camera. This is mainly a solitary pursuit. With luck, I may expose one or two sheets of film. These are the slow meditations that are pivotal to my practice and lead to the moment when I see a composition that interests me.

The exposed film for these photographs was developed while on the road and dried on the car’s dashboard in the warm sun. It’s easy to overcomplicate these initial steps which are in essence, fairly simple actions.

✪​ Note: See exhibition dates for Brighton, Australia below.

Botanical toning.

In my own practice, the printmaking stage is by far the most time-consuming part of the process. Printing is the transfer of the idea into a tangible object, in contrast to much of today’s photography which only ever exists virtually. The importance of printmaking cannot be underestimated.

The creative flow between the initial composition and printmaking is inseparable. It requires knowledge of various printing processes (some of which are historical), and a close relationship with chemistry in order to render the work towards its chosen destination.

These photographs used the traditional cyanotype (blue) printing process as the starting point. For work larger than the original negative size I use a digital negative. Sometimes I wrestle with the idea of a digital component in the middle of a workflow bookended by traditional practice, but I’m reminded of the nineteenth-century artists/photographers who insisted on using any tool available.

Toning cyanotypes.

Cyanotypes are characteristically blue. The photographs shown here have been toned with a variety of botanical materials that have chemically altered and transformed the surface emulsion to give subtle depth and a range of color. Bee’s wax polish is later applied to the print area.

Following classic landscape themes, I work in the space between traditional and digital practice. Through design, the technique is shared. Compositions are made in camera and printed in full frame. Paper is coated by hand with light-sensitive chemicals. A slight of tone and color is shared with the inclusion of border details.

This folio of photographs continues my craft as a photographer and printmaker tracing a direct path from my eye to the handmade photograph.


Threshold: Dirk de Bruyn, Guy Grabowsky, Mat Hughes.

29 October — 18 December 2022.

Bayside Gallery, Brighton, VIC, Australia.