Lockdown Lumens

I have a couple of friends who make lumen prints, exposing organic material onto old photographic paper under sunlight. With the coronavirus lockdown in place I decided to give the process a try.

My stock of photo paper is all quite fresh but I have a bottle of SE1 liquid emulsion of indeterminate age and storage so I thought I might coat some paper with that. On searching for suitable paper I came across a pad of Watercolour Artboard – perfect! Apart from some squashably soft organic material, all I now needed was a sheet of glass, such as found in a photo frame with which to make a ‘sandwich’ for exposure to the sun. Raking through my stuff(!) I found some glass cut to 4″x5″ that had been used previously for glass plate experiments and had been cleaned off ready for re-use.

The bottle of SE1 needed to be warmed to about 45ºC in a water bath so that the emulsion could be poured. With the Artboard cut to size I coated it with the emulsion using a foam brush then set it aside to dry in a dark place. That gave me time to raid the garden and food-waste bin for organic material and then set it out on the glass ready for the coated Artboard to be pressed down on top.

Clockwise from top left: Blueberry and banana skin, Christmas rose and forget-me-not, Primula, Dandelion with daffodil and tulip petals

I had laid out the glass on top of some cardboard and after placing the coated Artboard on top of the organic material I used a piece of plywood to apply even pressure to the ‘sandwich’. Unfortunately, the dandelion was not soft enough and the glass plate below it broke (perhaps I should have used plywood underneath instead of cardboard)!

Three successful ‘sandwiches’ held together with butterfly clips and one broken glass due to the dandelion being too hard.

I placed the three successful ‘sandwiches’ outside in direct sunlight. Rather than waste the Dandelion and petals I pulled out my UV Light Box and placed it under the light without any glass.

After exposing all four for about three hours, they were ready for processing. Under the heat of the light box, the dandelion was a little singed around the edges and the petals had shrivelled up. On the ‘sandwiches’ placed outside, condensation had formed on the underside of the glass, probably due to the emulsion not being fully dry.

After exposure for about three hours

The organic material now had to be removed and any bits remaining rinsed off from the Artboard. To give some permanence to the images they were placed in fixer for a couple of minutes and then rinsed in water for about fifteen minutes before drying.

And the finished images look like this …

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