Todd R. Forsgren
Ornithological Photographs / The World is Round / Post-industrial Edens / Resume
Untitled Re:Iterations / An Imperfect Representation / Other Works / Order a Book

Staring at the Sky and the Screen

Dreaming of Other Celestial Bodies
Wondering What They're Looking at
Breaking Branches and Bending Grids
Measuring Half-lives on the Horizon

Artist's Statement

Päivi Forsgren, Blue Screens, Cyanotypes (c. 6”x9”),1877-1879.

My great great great grandmother made these cyanotypes between 1877-1879. She lived in Finland, just north of the Arctic Circle near a town called Pello. The images were brought to America by her granddaughter (my great grandmother) along with a note on why she created these images. So the only details we have as to why and how these photographs were made were as follows:

"I made these images when I was a young woman, before I had children. They were made using a photographic process called cyanotype. The images were supposed to remind me of Finland during the summer: cool winds blowing, waves over the water, and the bright blue sky. During the cold dark winters, I would gaze at the images for hours and remember the longer days and warmer temperatures. I think that it was the only thing that kept me alive during some of those winters. Now that you're moving on to new opportunities in America, you should have them, so you can look at them and remember your homeland."

Incidentally, the images where made right around the time that Muybridge was creating his motion studies. I think that these images also represent a sort of 'first.' These might be the first screens, a paper predecessor of televisions. They look almost like flickering screen: still but suggesting motion. How interesting that they're blue, the color of the sky and water, of course, but also like the 'blue screens' that (along with green screens) are used in the world of special effects to create the illusion of a different space.

Until we found these, I used to think it was my father’s father’s father that was the root of photography in my family. You see, my father was an amateur photographer and his father was too. My great grandfather made violins and was famous for telling elaborate stories. It was his wife Tyyne who brought these cyanotypes to America; she was a hard working cook and the one who really held the family together. And Päivi was her grandmother.  That's as far as I can trace photography back in my family.

individual images: