Plan the Experience Of It

May 19, 2016 / Photography / artist mindset

This past week, I washed 500+ cyanotype photograms. Probably even more.

I was one of the artists in the Art of Science event at the Maryland Science Center, and by my rough estimate, there were over 500 kids from ages 6 to 14 with parents and teachers who went through my event. This was the first time I’ve done something remotely close to teaching, and I surprised myself. The kids loved it. The parents loved it. I loved it.

There were two things I learned.

A child’s capacity for surprise and wonder is inspiring. The äóìoohsäóù and äóìaahsäóù when the cyanotype went into a hydrogen peroxide solution (which turns a cyanotype print instantly blue) made me laugh every time. It’s such a simple thing! It’s amazing how the kids’ faces lit up when this happened. That will stay with me for a long time.

I also learned the importance of planning the event. When I met with the Maryland Science Center team a month before, we planned what materials we would use and what activities the kids would do. But one thing I didn’t really think of was the experience of it. This became clear to me when one parent came into the room and asked, äóìWhere do we start?äóù I had no idea. I was picturing all along that this would be leisurely. Thankfully, my education team quickly improvised a äóìfactory assembly lineäóù system:

  1. I greeted them and took them to table 1 where I showed how materials react to UV light;
  2. then we went to table 2 where I showed them my art and what can be done with UV light;
  3. then I directed them over to my education team who helped the kids (and adults!) design their photograms using ferns, flowers, leaves, rocks, seeds, etc.;
  4. then they went outside to expose the photogram to sunlight for 1 minute;
  5. then they came back in, and I washed the photograms and gave a short history of cyanotype: (äóìCyanotype was one of the very first photographic printing processes, and it was invented in 1842! The first female photographer was Anna Atkins and she made photograms of ferns and leaves, just like what you’ve done! You are repeating history here, how does that sound! Did you know that the first four letters of cyanotype C-Y-A-N means dark blue in Greek?). The kids loved it.
  6. Finally, I hung the cyanotypes to dry and asked the kids to pick them up 10-15 minutes later. And they actually came back. That part surprised me too.

Thank God those photograms were only about 4x4 inches square. It was a lot of work. I was exhausted. I admire teachers and artists who teach. I really believe that education is the key to the future; that was the reason why I participated in this event.

If I do another event like this again, I’ll know what to do. I will plan the experience of it.

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