A most certain sign that it is summer again: I am picking up plants and squeezing out their juices for anthotype printing. I had made myself a mental note, after having read somewhere, that the lily of the valley has a very high degree of photosensitive chlorophyl in it. I never had the chance to test it, until today. My improvised photo lab lacks some finesse and equipment but hey, life was meant to be experimental, peppered with improvisation if you ask me! I pounded some leaves like they were yam and then squeezed the resulting green porridge by hand on paper. The only thing I can do now is wait patiently and let the sun do its part.
I am starting a series of beginnings through various media; alternative photography, short films and text. As far as short films are concerned, “Out of the Box” will be the first one out (of a larger box still, hahhahah) in connection with Soundscapes from the Sahel. What does this mean? It means that I am teasing out improvised beginnings of stories of fictional characters, inspired by my relatively large archive of photos. You know how it goes, when you suddenly look back at some photographs that you took years ago and you immediately reconnect with the time and place of the photo. But what if someone who does not know you nor the background of the photo would interpret what the story behind a particular photo is. That is what I want to play with. Stay tuned!
This post falls into the the nostalgia department with a few photographs from the flashmob we organized quite many years back (see my prevous post). These images were all I was able to dig up from an archive, unfortunately the video material that I shot that day is corrupted. Our external servers, flash memory cards, cloud servers, mobile phones and what not are inundated with visual material that we have documented over the years, but for how long will they remain usable, after all? The more I think of it, the more I would like to go back and promote the old school film photography and other alternative printing methods… well, that’s not news!
The railway tracks are still there, the market crowds are still there, even the station building is still there, but for how long?
I have made some anthotype prints in the past but never found time long enough to experiment with that technique. So far my plan has always been postponed to “that next summer in Finland” when I would, in theory, attempt to extract some delicious photo sensitive juice out of the intestines of whichever plant or berry I could get my hands on. And then the summer would come, and I would be busy with too many other things... Now the new plan is that we will organize a workshop on anthotypes, so perhaps when it’s part of a more official residency program it will materialize in a more constructive way.
Anthotypes aside, I just realized earlier this week that I have a relatively easy access to banana leaves and decided to give it a go and make chlorophyll prints. I am a fan of Binh Danh’s work* and some years ago when I saw some of his portraits I knew that one day I would put my mind to it and try this process myself. And here’s that day! Below is my first print, which I made out of an old negative converted into a positive when the print was ready. That’s because I did not have a transparent positive to work with, I was just too eager to give it a go! This print had an exposure of approximately 24 hours. More experimentation is on its way now and with proper positives.
I made the piece called Sunglasses of a positive that was printed on paper. I had to add some contrast to make the photo more visible though. I have sometimes used very thin white Japanese paper as a positive with good results, but this slightly opaque transparent paper did not work so well even if I had an exposure time of nearly 48 hours. Some other positives on paper were much more contrasted than this one and they all failed to print anything. I may need to experiment with the level of contrast as well since this work was the least contrasted and it produced a fairly decent print.
*Link to Alternative Photography and the chlorophyll process where you can see some examples of Binh Danh’s beautiful prints.
A first milestone in my Afropolis photo project: a work-in-progress exhibition. I framed twelve prints last night to show what I am working on. This small show is combining some sleek-looking photos and rough handmade and “unfinished” frames made out of old windows that are very easy to come by here in Saint-Louis. Doing this show has helped me a lot in both choosing the photos that I want to include in later exhibitions and defining the theme or themes that this project will bring forward. These twelve photos were taken in Addis Ababa and once I will have more material from the other cities – Dakar, Nouakchott and Bamako – these themes will certainly develop more in the process. For now I can say that visually I hope to capture some of the contrasts of neighborhoods that are human in size and “organic” against the modern construction boom with glass and steel buildings reaching up in the skies, and human activity characterized by informality that takes place in between these two dynamics. More of that later with more photos!
Ndar Ndar Music & Café, Saint-Louis: A work-in-progress photo exhibition “Afropolis 2020” with a focus on African urban space: Addis Ababa. The final exhibition material will be made in platinum prints in summer 2020.