February 8, 2011

A 30-Year Contact Print on Construction Paper

[cross-posted from my too-infrequently-updated photography blog]

I was in Arizona a couple weeks ago to shoot two more people for my Inventor Portraits Project. My parents live in Arizona, so I took the opportunity to visit them and go through some old boxes that have been taking up space in my old bedroom.

In my closet, I found a photo of me that was taken almost 30 years ago. It had been taped to a piece of green construction paper and placed in a cheap plastic frame around 1982. It hung that way on a wall in my bedroom for about 15 years. When it was hung up, it looked like this:

By the time I took the photo down in 1997, indirect sunlight had faded the construction paper from green to a sort of salmon-like orange. I digitally restored it to the original green for the image above, but actually the background had faded like this:

When I found it in my closet during my recent visit, I decided there was no reason to keep the photo in the bulky plastic frame any longer. It should go in an album, or a better frame. When I separated the photo from the paper, this was revealed hidden underneath:

How wonderful is that? Over all that time hung on the wall, sunlight had bleached the construction paper everywhere it could. But since it couldn’t penetrate the darker areas of the photo, the corresponding parts of the construction paper underneath remained their original color.

Any light-sensitive surface can be used to make a photo, and I’ve seen everything used from leaves to grass. But I don’t remember seeing photos printed on construction paper, even though I know they’re sometimes used to make photograms as an activity for kids. But I did a little googling and found a couple other people who made a print on construction paper using similar methods, although deliberately and not over quite so long a time.


That’s pretty wonderful, alright! That would be a neat way to do table decorations at a party (wedding, anniversary, b-day); get pictures of the honoree and make construction paper contact prints.

I’ve thought about making a pinhole camera with construction paper as film if I could find an interesting spot where the camera wouldn’t be disturbed for years.

Cyantotpye will give this effect even more quickly! Just mix some Iron II Citrate, potassium ferricyanide (these are easy to get) with water, dip some acid-free paper in it, and let dry. It is sensitive to UV light, and develops in fresh running water…

Wow, that’s really amazing! I’ve been wanting to experiment with photosensitive paper myself, but to find such a gem without any effort is such luck!

Uncle David, When you were little you looked like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid guy except with red hair! From, Siena

That’s really beautiful. Time is literally held within the print. If only we could have more patience to create images like these, we’d find ourselves a lot more surprised.

The Shroud of Turin solved! Wait. The shroud is made of construction paper, right?