The Photograph Explained: Blushing Drape by Leanne McPhee

Drape 2013

New Chrysotype Photograph

‘So, you like to take photos of curtains….?’ Remembering the first comment I received for this image always brings a wry smile to my face. I don’t quite see this image as a curtain – in fact it’s not. It’s a suspended piece of silky polyester, possessing endless rhythmic lines and sensual swirls from which I see a subtle form emerge.

Blushing Drape is part of a photographic series created by contact printing a large format negative onto paper using the New Chrysotype process. Revived and modified by Dr Mike Ware in 1987, this gold printing process produces striking monotone colours as a result of altering chemistry and humidity controls. Colours range from pink, red, magenta and purple, to blue, grey and black. I was drawn to New Chrysotype, along with salt printing, as these alternative photographic printing processes work well with my images to articulate the concept.

I am photographing the series with a Calumet C Series 8 x 10 camera. Produced between 1960 and 1985, the speckled brown and olive versions were the first made, while the camera I use is part of the ‘monster’ family – the green monster and black beast being the latter and more common versions of the Calumet camera. Black beast is a suitable name for my camera. Before it was ‘tamed’ (idiosyncrasies and functions understood), I really did just want to strangle it with the dark cloth. Coming in at 9kgs and needing a sturdy tripod, it’s more suitable as a studio camera. But the ‘beast’ is now part of the family and a regular feature in the lounge/studio.

I like that I’m working with a camera previously used by students to learn the ropes, and then by a photographer whose work I admire and has influenced my approach. I use a Nikkor W 300mm lens at the moment and the camera predominately for creating negatives to contact print. The camera came with 4 x 5, 5 x 7 and 8 x 10 reduction backs that are handy to use when I want to vary the size of my contact prints.

Ilford FP4+ 125 black and white is my film of choice, which is developed in PMK pyro to give me the density I need for long exposures. The prints are made on Bergger COT 320 which is a French 100% cotton paper and one of my favourites because of its stability.

The black beast has been a fantastic first large format camera for me and I’ll hold onto it as I venture into working with dry plate negatives. Perhaps later I’ll upgrade to an 11 x 14 field camera. A selection of images from my Drape series can be found at

Further information about Dr Mike Ware and his research and work with alternative photographic processes can be found at

Leanne McPhee

LMcPhee Artist and Camera