Sarah Van Keuren: Rooted Protagonists

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Philadelphia photographer Sarah Van Keuren is known for using very traditional 19th century printing processes known as gum prints specifically cyanotype and gum bichromate. Van Keuren uses a four-color process to create her prints-cyan, magenta, yellow, and black each applied in layers. The cyan is a rich blue and usually printed in cyanotype, a light-sensitive iron salt solution. The remaining color palette is created by using gum bichromate in which gum Arabic (or sap from the Acacia tree) is combined with watercolor pigment then mixed with light-sensitive chromium salt. Each layer of pigmented gum is exposed using a separate negative allowing the artist to make aesthetic decisions as the layers are applied. Although the initial image is generated using a camera, gum prints allow for greater flexibility in the printing process unlike most photographic prints. Van Keuren has said, "Although I embrace photography for its miraculous accurate tonal renditions, as someone who has extensively drawn and painted, I am not willing to relinquish the gesture of my hand in applying emulsion or control over color to a manufactured product."

Van Keuren's chosen technique and medium enable her to best express her aesthetic as her work is typically inspired by nature. Van Keuren is not interested in seeking accuracy through photography but rather the freedom to interpret color, texture, and to portray the landscape as she sees it.

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