Picture perfect coffee

For many people, coffee is a necessary part of the morning routine. For photographer Barbara Reimer, however, it has become part of her art.

Inspired by the leave-no-trace ethos of Burning Man, a yearly festival celebrating art and community in the Nevada desert, Reimer began developing film in coffee eight years ago. "I was thinking how I could bring photography to this festival," said Reimer, photo technician in the Department of Art and Art History. "How do you leave no trace with photography?"

She further researched the chemicals used in developing, knowing from her years as a commercial photographer that alterations in chemicals can bring out certain colours, tones or highlights.

"I like seeing the images and working with the chemistry," she said. "Any organic substance with a certain molecular structure that reacts to an alkali will develop the film."

In this case, the coffee is mixed with vitamin C and the resulting solution (called caffenol) works as a staining developer, leaving a brown hue on the photo. She uses both instant coffee (which can be made at any temperature) as well as brewed  coffee.

With extensive experience in both film and digital photography, Reimer assists students and faculty with projects and keeps lab equipment in order. She spent much of the summer in an artist residency in Iceland, where she furthered her work with on-site coffee developing and sustainable methods of developing.

"My whole idea is to have an available practice so I can pick up and go somewhere and buy it all there, so I'm not lugging things with me," she said. "I'm trying to make it more portable."

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