Elizabeth Briel, Travel Artist

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Blue Boys

Yesterday I thumbed through pages of vintage photos from China, taken by the Australian traveler/writer/photographer G.E. Morrison, hoping to find photos of people making paper. There were no papermakers among his travel photos and the pictures of his servants, whose names were simply written “Boy 1” and “Boy 2” – though he was fluent in Chinese – but I did discover these blue kids on the streets of Beijing:

Old Chinese Cyanotype

with a simple inscription on the back:

Old Chinese Cyanotype

This print was a test on thin, uncoated paper. It was made with a glass negative, and the image had an amazing clarity impossible to duplicate with digital prints. I held it between my fingers and wondered how many other photos of these street kids went into the bin. The photographer would have selected the best print to reproduce in much more expensive black-and-white.

For that photographer this print was just testing skin tones of local street urchins, but for me, a century later on another continent, it was an inspiration.

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