Claire Collison / Visual Literacy activities / Westminster Academy

Activity: Creating Sun Prints (even in January!)

This practical activity by Claire Collison uses sun prints to demystify the processes involved in pre-digital photography, in order to help students appreciate some of the decisions a photographer is (still) making.

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Following our visit to Walead Beshty’s cyanotypes exhibition at Barbican’s Curve Gallery, students created their own sun prints.

Activity – Creating Sun Prints (even in January!)

You will need:

Sun-sensitive paper – this is easily available at art suppliers, and online.

Selection of objects to place on paper Sun (even weak winter sun works, but you will need to experiment with the timings)

How to:

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Outside, place objects on paper and expose to sunlight. Timings will vary according to the light available, but it should take between 2 and 5 minutes.

Once the paper begins to change colour, rinse in water and dry.

Outcomes/ Learning objectives:

The aim is to demonstrate what we mean when we say photography is ‘painting with light’, and to demystify the processes involved in pre-digital photography, in order to help students appreciate some of the decisions a photographer is (still) making.

Follow on notes – this connects to the Edwin Smith exhibition, seen earlier at RIBA, where we looked at some of his ‘trick photography’, for example using a drawing pin directly on photographic paper to mask an area of a print and simulate the sun.

It also links through to the contemporary work of artists using photographic processes in their work; such as Ackroyd and Harvey’s grass prints.

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