#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 38

#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 38

Day 38

The kettle boils, the toaster pops the bread and within minutes I am back under the covers of bed. I read about lumen prints and solargraphy. There is little need for me to do so. I have researched those topics enough and I’m running out of excuses. I have been threatening to have a go at those photographic techniques for far too long. The paper set in the sun, my pinhole camera on the windowsill of the study, I head back to the garden. I sit at the table and write to my grand mother and my nephew. I read their letters over, making sure to answer the questions asked. My nephew’s handwriting makes me smile. It is so much like mine when I was his age. I can see each turn of the pen, the words painstakingly formed to the rules learned in school. I wonder how the round shape of his words will change. Mine have lost all of their bounce.

The letters finished, I retire inside. The sun is stifling hot and I can feel my skin burn. I sit on the sofa, the air much cooler and open a book about Kandinsky. I first learned of the painter when I was six, a couple of years younger than my nephew, when my teacher asked us to draw shapes and colours as Kandinsky did. My drawing is long gone and I cannot remember it but I am sure it was no masterpiece. I do remember exhibition day with parents flooding the wide entrance hall of the school. A large table had been set at the centre of it, the light pouring onto it from the glass walls of the school face. All of our drawings had been put together forming a large-scale composition. Parents must have marvelled at the art to please their child but I do not remember that. All that remains is the glittering light and the larger than life composition. I didn’t know art could be this big.

I take the lumen print out of the sun and shelter it from light under a book. The afternoon is drawing to a close and it is time for a walk. We step out and soon I see my first flag. It takes me a minute to register the presence of the flag with VE Day. The importance of this day has been slipping out of my mind all day. Neighbours are spread throughout the streets in informal tea parties. I am glad to see them so far apart from one another. I snap photos wanting to remember this moment in time. I have never truly understood Britain’s relationship with WWII. The clinginess to a glorified past makes me ill at ease. I never know how far the pride goes but I am not even sure today is about VE Day for most people.

We follow one of our longest loop, navigating back streets and alleyways to link green spaces together. It is apparent that some gatherings contains more than one household. We keep clear of people, shoving ourselves in bushes and narrow grass verges to avoid passing pedestrians and cyclists until we emerge into Forty Acres, a large expanse of grass with few people in it. We talk about the past, our past and then about the future. I have not given it much thought. The future has become a difficult concept to grasp. The world cannot go back to a pre-pandemic normal, at least I feel I cannot and this blurs the boundaries of the known.

We make it home safely. I head straight for the bathroom to dip my lumen print into a bath of water and fixer. The sharp smell of the chemical fills the room as I open the bottle. I wonder if it had grown more potent since the last time I have used it. I pour the small amount I require, mix it with water, and close the bottle, the smell trapped within. A couple of minutes and the print is ready. I hang it to dry and stare at it, mesmerised by the depth of details on it. Patterns of light and shadows have created an explosion in the dandelion’s core, the white speck of fluff flying away from it. The daisy is a myriad of ochres, each line of chlorophyll visible to the naked eye. There is magic in this process and I wonder how far I can push this. Flowers, leaves, and other naturals findings are the obvious choice of subject. They fill image searches online, tutorial after tutorial using the natural world to demonstrate the process. It is an obvious subject for me too but I want to add textures I observe in cyanotypes, patterns of chemicals drifting on paper.

I leave the print to dry, pluck a few flowers from the garden and press them in a book. I have promised my grand mother flowers from my garden in my letter.

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