This Arlington Artist Uses Cyanotype to Capture Flowers and Found Objects

Photographer Susan Murie experiments with an antique printing method.

Toss the Roses, cyanotype on paper, $850, Abigail Ogilvy Gallery. / Courtesy photo

Susan Murie always wanted a creative career, working in theater and filmmaking before finally landing on photography. After years of producing black-and-white images, and later hand-colored works, the Arlington-based artist decided to try her hand at cyanotype: a 19th-century photographic printing technique she first spotted in a magazine. “Cyanotype isn’t easily controlled,” Murie says of the process, which involves placing negatives on chemical-coated paper that turns bright cyan-blue when exposed to UV light and dunked in water. “You can use the same chemistry and exposure time and get a different result. A lot of photographers get frustrated, but I never get tired of it.”

These days, Murie—who once worked as a gardener— applies the method to original photos, which run the gamut from overgrown landscapes and flowers to pottery and other found objects. Her piece Toss the Roses, for instance, features blooms scattered among lace and broken porcelain, while Wellspring shows a web of jasmine, clematis, and linen. As for her inspiration, the artist says she often finds herself drawn to movement, illustrating objects that tumble down the frame in a cascade of disorder—a fitting composition for her natural (read: hard-to-tame) subjects. “We can cultivate a garden, but it always gets overgrown,” she says. “Nature goes on without us. Most of the time, the work of a gardener is keeping that [chaos] at bay.”

Wellspring, cyanotype on paper, $2,800, Abigail Ogilvy Gallery. / Courtesy photo