Celebrating Natural Beauty – Cyantoypes by Henrietta Molinaro
Henrietta Molinaro is an image-maker with English and Italian roots. Her training as a photographer and graphic designer informs the highly detail-oriented process of creating images using traditional techniques that involve hours of deliberation in the darkroom. Working primarily in cyanotype and silver gelatin printmaking, her work emphasises the beauty of organic form in a singular leaf, a sparse handful of clover, or one perfectly balanced fern stem. She is an avid collector of these materials that have lived their own life cycles in nature before achieving a new kind of immortality in her timeless images.
One can imagine the hours that Molinaro must spend with her nose in the tall grass of an open field, surrounded by a chorus of frogsong at a pond’s edge, or poking around in the forest floor, searching for the perfect specimen to bring back to the studio. Regardless of the processes she plans to employ, these compositions are meticulously arranged, bringing to mind botanical or scientific drawings rendered with the uncompromising draftsmanship of sunlight itself. The way that each print is framed within a hand-painted swath of blue or black pigment hints at a connection to the dynamic movement that once belonged to these specimens as they danced in a gentle breeze or nodded their delicate heads to the rhythm of a rainstorm.
This contrast between the expressively applied background and immaculately detailed subject also recalls the process by which these images are created. Cyanotype is one of the earliest photographic processes, discovered in 1842 and utilising a specific chemical reaction to produce the trademark cyan blue light-sensitive surface that records a subject in the negative. To make a cyanotype, one would uncover the prepared surface just before exposing it to sunlight. A leaf, flower, branch, or anything relatively flat is fixed onto the surface while the surrounding area is exposed. The final step is to remove the subject from the paper and rinse the print in cold water, permanently setting the pigment and negating the photosensitivity of its surface. It is a highly intuitive, albeit detailed process that enables the artist to work almost directly from nature to produce one-of-a-kind compositions that possess the clarity of a scientific drawing, in addition to the unmistakable trace of the artist’s hand in laying the ground and physically composing the image.
To see the whole series of Henrietta Molinaro’s cyanotype series, in addition to her impressive collection of silver gelatin prints, visit the link below.