Rebecca Bruyn has spent 50 years pursuing her love for capturing photos. “I knew I wanted to start photographing at the age of 12. That’s when the Polaroid Instamatic came out. It’s the photograph that comes out and the picture appears after two minutes. I loved doing that. I loved capturing things,” she comments. Her niche became cyanotypes, an antique photo printing method. In recent years, she switched to digital after discovering the world of iPhoneography. Today, she combines both methods, often printing her iPhone images as limited edition cyanotypes. A true creative, Rebecca Bruyn connects yesterday’s techniques with today’s technology.
Bruyn’s photography journey began after enrolling in photography classes while a Boston resident. To promote her work, she hosted shows in small shops in the city. After moving to Cape Cod 22 years ago, the Cape Cod Viewfinders Camera Club helped enhance her craft for six years. “In one of the first meetings, somebody was demonstrating something called Photoshop. I had just seen it when I got my Masters at Boston University in Public Health. I remember thinking, ‘we can’t alter things.’ It was the end of the century and I was seeing this new digital world. One of my friends did cyanotypes, so I took a class with her in Provincetown and I fell in love with it. Each one is different. It has a painterly effect and a feeling of antiquity, which I’m drawn to in general,” Bruyn reflects.
As she gained her footing with cyanotypes, her work was shown in galleries in Orleans and Truro. In 2010, one of her images won a competition for the Provincetown Monument’s 100-year anniversary. Truro Vineyards and the museum collaborated to produce a limited-edition wine for the anniversary event. 60 nationwide applicants submitted artwork to be placed on the wine labels. In a blind jury, Bruyn’s cyanotype image was chosen for the label. “10 years later, it’s a nice connection. They put the image in the museum as well, so it is now there in perpetuity,” Bruyn comments.
Each cyanotype image is limited edition with its own variations. The printing process, dating back to the 1840s, is full of pleasant surprises. “You can apply the iron salt chemicals on any product. I use watercolor paper that I prep and keep out of sunlight. Once it’s dry, I place the negative on the paper with glass on top, stick it in the sunshine, and bake it for three to ten minutes,” Bruyn describes. “I rinse it off and I never know what I am going to get. I just love the surprise of it, and maybe that’s what I loved about the Polaroid camera. This is my passion,” Bruyn comments. Adding another layer of ingenuity, she paints various brush strokes on the paper, so only the stroke appears in areas rather than the image.
“I knew I wanted to start photographing at the age of 12. That’s when the Polaroid Instamatic came out. It’s the photograph that comes out and the picture appears after two minutes. I loved doing that. I loved capturing things.”
After years of mastering this method, Bruyn found herself unexpectedly enamored by iPhone photography. “The funny thing is, after 15 years of learning cyanotype, I suddenly found myself switching to digital. I got the iPhone and realized I could do so many different things. I got on Facebook and was seeing beautiful images from around the world. I was hooked,” Bruyn recalls.
Now, she embraces the digital world, learning to unite her love of antiquity with the mobile art realm. Architecture is her preferred photography subject, particularly the historic buildings in Provincetown. Using Photoshop, Bruyn turns her iPhone photos into negatives that she can process as cyanotypes.
When shooting historical sites on the Outer Cape, a cyanotype print can achieve a nostalgic feel. The highlights of the blue print exude an antique impression that transports the viewer back in time. In prints like “Shade in the Dunes,” Bruyn’s iPhone snapshots from driving around the Outer Cape highlight the dunes’ shifting beauty.
Bruyn’s work, including her iPhoneography, cyanotypes, and tea-toned cyanotypes, can be found in Provincetown’s Cortile Gallery. “The Cortile Gallery has been so wonderful to bring in the digital art. I feel very supported,” Bruyn adds. In her spare time, Bruyn has been teaching iPhoneography at Castle Hill and Provincetown Art Association for the past three summers. “I love to teach. It has been great to see how people can get excited with using their photos and doing post processing with phone applications. I have about 40 apps on my phone for editing.”
Working with cyanotypes, iPhoneography, and often combining both, Bruyn’s skillset is far reaching. As she bridges the gap between historic and modern photography, Rebecca Bruyn reminds us of the charm in antiquity and the ability to combine both eras. – Brenna Collins
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