Amelia Cain

cyanotype photographs investigating the emptiness of landscape and transience of natural forms

Amelia Cain

Photographs

Amelia Cain graduated from Tyler School of Art in 2011, where she studied photography and art education. Cain has exhibited in group exhibitions regionally and nationally and has received several awards. Her latest works explore the cyanotype process, combining digital photography with a 19th century printing process, bridging present and past.

Cain often captures images on hikes, focusing on the emptiness of landscape and transient beauty of natural forms. Snippets of natural elements make an appearance in Cain’s works as ghostly photograms, a nod to Anna Atkin’s historical use of the process to document botanical findings. Cain applies cyanotype emulsion to watercolor paper using a brush, exposes to sunlight and develops in trays of water and vinegar. The process reveals many layers of complexity and is particularly amenable to experimentation.

Artist Statement

I began revisiting alternative photographic processes out of a desire to make handmade prints within the space and practical restrictions of my small apartment. Cyanotypes, especially, appeal to me because they allow me to combine the convenience of digital photography with a 19th century printing process, bridging present and past. Cyanotypes are simple in that they require a minimum of equipment—I apply iron-salt emulsion by hand to virtually any absorbent material, expose to sunlight and develop in trays of water in the bathtub. Cyanotypes are also flexible, with seemingly endless potential for experimentation. 

The process is slow and timely: an afternoon of printmaking begins several days prior, with the transformation of digital images into large format negatives, the collection of natural materials, the mixing of chemicals and the tearing and coating of paper. Printing itself can be slow and haphazard as it depends largely on the weather. If clouds roll in, the day’s printing session is cut short. If the sun suddenly reemerges, it’s game on. I am propelled to new solutions by the failures, pleasantly surprised and just as often frustrated by the serendipity of the process.

I frequently capture images on hikes, focusing on the emptiness of landscape and transient beauty of both natural and man-made forms. Snippets of natural elements make an appearance in my works as ghostly photograms, a nod to Anna Atkin’s historical use of the process to document botanical findings.