An idea so crazy, or brilliant, that it could only be his, set Dustin Rosemark, 27, of Rochester, in a new direction.

The idea being to apply the antique photo process of cyanotype to moving images in a first-of-its-kind film.

Yet long before the prestige of being first, comes the work.

"This has not been done before. You can't open a manual to see how to do it best," Rosemark said.

First used in in the 1840s, cyanotypes are a basic, monochromatic blue reproduction of an image. The process only uses two chemicals and ultraviolet light.

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But before he could even get to work producing the images that he'd later digitize, Rosemark, who  studied film production at Maine Mediain Rockport, Maine, had to learn everything from electrical engineering to how to write grants.

Wanting to be sure that he was the first filmmaker to do this, Rosemark consulted Christopher James, an expert in alternative photographic processes, to find out if anyone had tried his idea before.

"I thought the appeal of the project was that it's ground-breaking," Rosemark said.

'Crazy' talk?

James' response was basically that, "I'm crazy," and that it was not practical and too much work, Rosemark said.

Yet, to Rosemark, that was the point. His idea grew out of a rail against how advances in technology are eating away at the craft of photography. So the disparaging response only spurred Rosemark to work harder.

"The only thing standing in my way was how hard I wanted to work," he said.

That and a lack of funding.

About to give up, Rosemark went to the Rochester Public Library and came across James's book "The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes." He saw the book not only as a resource, but also as a sign to continue pushing.

Then, after tweaking his proposal over the better part of two years, Rosemark's project was funded in July 2010 by the Jerome Foundation, which financially supports the creation, development and production of new works by emerging artists in Minnesota and New York.

Called "Blue Hands," the film features Minnesota-based craftspeople doing traditional crafts, including potter Amy Cass, of Rochester, a blacksmith who still uses a bellows and hammer, a basket weaver and a paper maker.

Rosemark shot the footage on a digital camera then broke it into individual frames, which he then made cyanotype prints of.

Frame by frame

It takes at least 1,400 prints to make one minute of moving images, he said. So to create seven, one-minute films, Rosemark had to process more than 9,000 frames, using a self-designed lightbox and drying racks.

Each frame then has to be scanned in individually to be made into a digital film, which is what he's working on now. That's in addition to working on a documentary about folk music in Minnesota and writing a grant proposal for what could be his next big project: building mutoscopes, old-fashioned, hand-cranked machines that show short films.

Since his work flow all but stops during the summer while Rosemark sells sweet corn, his self-imposed deadline is July.

In the future, he imagines "Blue Hands" being shown on wall-mounted screens in art galleries.

Making that happen, he said, is a whole other process.