Inês Valente (@inesrvalente) is a portuguese photographer with a passion for alternative photographic processes. We talked to her recently to find out more about her project Women in History, in which she uses the cyanolumen technique – a combination of cyanotype and lumen print, to transform historical images of renowned women.
Each of these six pictures show women who could all be considered icons. The original portraits themselves are also iconic and instantly recognizable to many people. However, by applying these well known images to experimental photographic processes, Inês brings new life to them.
Inês first became interested with alternative processes while studying photography. She was particularly fascinated by cyanotype because of their simplicity and how relatively easy they are to produce.
“I started to wonder why there were not a lot of people making it (or aware of it) and then I realized that the chemicals here in Portugal weren't available at the stores. So I started a little project called Maria Azul in which I sell the material and teach the process to anyone who wants to learn it. For the last 4 years my mission has been to divulge it as much as I can.”
For this series of photographs she combines cyanotype with lumen prints. This involves using cyanotype chemicals with photographic paper (instead of watercolor paper which is traditionally used in cyanotypes) and then stabalizing them in sunlight. Inês tells us she was drawn to the unique and unpredictable results that came from the combination of iron and silver.
As well as the chemicals and negatives of each woman, Inês also used plants to create patterns and added some curry powder to give dashes of yellow color amid the blues and earthy browns.
Each portrait takes on a new beauty under the effect of the chemical processes, enacted by the sunlight, that turns these ordinarily black and white photos into colorful works of art. When we asked if Inês had a favorite amongst the final pictures, she told us:
"I especially like the Marie Curie because she was a chemist herself, so using chemicals to print her portrait is quite ironic and funny at the same time."
Perhaps other viewers will have different favorites - the swirling busy patterns and bright colors of the Amelia Earheart image, or the dark markings that partly obscure the face of Virginia Woolf and seem to appropriately resemble waves.
Here’s what Inês had to say about the meaning behind her project:
"Like the title of the project "Women in history", I used some portraits of well-known women and submitted them to an unpredictable process just like the passage of time. All the stains are a reminder that even people who achieve great successes also fall in oblivion.
Nowadays we take lots of stuff as guaranteed but these women had to fight for a place in history and we seem to forget history and think that it won't repeat itself. Nothing could be further from the truth, as we can see right now in eastern Europe. We have to celebrate not only women of course but all of the rights that we achieve as human beings or they will indeed be forgotten."