I love sepia…I mean, I love the colour and I like that it brings up, for me, a sense of nostalgia and memory.
I have used a sepia-like palette in paintings where I wished to provoke that very sensibility…my library club paintings would be an example of this.
Recently, I enjoyed photographs at studio 122 by artist and photographer, Bryce Meyer. The work was yummy because of the warmth and the layering involved in his process. He describes his process this way. “The photos were encaustic using bees wax. They’re inkjet prints which I then treated with the wax. This is the first time I’ve used the process to show work, normally my work is more static and minimal in nature. I chose to use encaustic this time to help communicate the feeling of Varanasi.”
As a result of my encounter with those two photographs, I have read a bit about the toning of photographs. From our favourite dictionary of wonderful things, and in no way, complete…this snapshot from wikipedia…
Sepia toning is a specialized treatment to give a black-and-white photographic print a warmer tone and to enhance its archival qualities. Chemicals are used to convert the metallic silver in the print to a sulfide compound, which is much more resistant to the effects of environmental pollutants such as atmospheric sulfur compounds. Silver sulfide is at least 50% more stable than silver.
There are three types of sepia toner in modern use;
- Sodium sulfide toners – the traditional ‘rotten egg‘ toner;
- Thiourea (or ‘thiocarbamide’) toners – these are odorless and the tone can be varied according to the chemical mixture;
- Polysulfide or ‘direct’ toners – these do not require a bleaching stage.
Except for polysulfide toners, sepia toning is done in three stages. First the print is soaked in a potassium ferricyanide bleach to re-convert the metallic silver to silver halide. The print is washed to remove excess potassium ferricyanide then immersed into a bath of toner, which converts the silver halides to silver sulfide.
Incomplete bleaching creates a multi-toned image with sepia highlights and gray mid-tones and shadows. This is called split toning. The untoned silver in the print can be treated with a different toner, such as gold or selenium.
And…I’m assuming that contemporary photographers might also use digital techniques…so this…
Toning can be simulated digitally, either in-camera or in post-processing. The in-camera effect, as well as beginner tutorials given for software like Photoshop or GIMP, use a simple tint. More sophisticated software tends to implement sepia tones using the duotone feature. Simpler photo-editing software usually has an option to sepia-tone an image in one step.
On a personal level, one of my favourite family photographs captures my paternal grandmother and grandfather on their wedding day. Gramma wore fresh apple blossoms in her hair.
Last night, I went out to En Corp Dance Collective’s performance of SEPIA with a group of my dear Ya Yas. Mount Royal’s Wright Theater was host to the performance and I treasured the evening on several levels.
Initially, I felt a blow to my gut at the introductory segments. Beautiful actress, Kelly Medieros, played the role of an aging female widow, suffering and celebrating the memories of times shared with and the loss of her spouse.
Her narrative became the thread that connected the choreography that we were to enjoy. I appreciated the objects of her affection…the photographs…the map. I appreciated her subtle gestures and her meetings and greetings of the selves of her self. So beautifully performed.
Having just recently lost my mother, much of the first half was rough on me, emotionally…but, with some self-talk, I managed to enter into the piece and really engage it. I appreciated the interesting technological work, the background and the set as well as the photographs that sprinkled through the program. For me, this performance became everyone’s story. The dancers did an exceptional job of capturing the various phases of a woman’s life…a canvas of strokes that touched each of the audience in a different way, I’m certain. Congratulations, En Corps, especially Kelly, Melanie and Alfi…beautiful creatives!
The opening number…