Although I am not a fervent user of smart phones, the good thing about them is that they can remind you of things from the past. The other day this photo jumped on my phone screen from a cloud storage to remind me that quite some time ago I was running a coffee house that looked like this. What you see is a medieval wall, refurbished school chairs, tables covered with old Ethiopian newspapers and a Congolese fabric on the wall. What you don’t see in the picture is that the medieval wall sometimes dropped pieces of old bricks straight into your drinks. ”Waiter! There is a piece of wall in my coffee!” would give you a new free drink of course.
These days I roast coffee once or twice a week on the rooftop. The advantage of doing this is that while your one-man-motored roaster is in full swing, you can watch the surrounding nature in action: kites, young small birds learning to be independent and still making a hell of a noise when their mothers would be around, baby geckos that had imagined they would like to live in the roaster when it was not in operation and would now run for their lives, or bats landing on the big tree that grows next to our house. The entire coffee roasting process is a very rewarding one, because in the end you have a batch of hand-roasted coffee that you produced without computerized programs, trusting solely on your experience and senses. Even with some minor work accidents like burns or pieces of coffee bean skin flying into your eye it’s still fun!
I don’t know if it is the beginning of a new year or what but this photo really got me day dreaming… I also just read that these days you can subscribe to ambient sound of being in a coffee shop. Maybe there really is a need for such a thing, particularly in these strange times when you spend most of your time between your desk – or sofa or whatever – and your coffee machine. Should I give it a try?
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.
To those of you who read books: here’s another recommendation of a compelling examination of how freedom is threatened in a post-truth society. Ben Okri says that he had wanted to write this book “for a long time, maybe all [his] life.” Reading it now in these crazy times is bound to put an even heavier weigh on your chest.
“New tales were encouraged. New myths were created by the most highly decorated artists of the land. To be like everyone else was the highest distinction a citizen could hope for. All the new myths promoted this ideal. Uniqueness, individuality, curiosity, became invidious qualities. They made enemies of the state. Anyone who stood out in some way was suspect. To be different was to condemn your fellow citizens. Those who were tall learnt to walk with a stoop. The intelligent learnt to be foolish.“
I started this book in an aircraft full of passengers from Freetown. Half of them had full body protective suits, gloves and plastic hoods on throughout the flight. At times, when I had a break from reading and looked around me, I felt I was still in the story! It was one of those powerful moments when you think you escape this world into a book, into that famously mythical world by Okri, and yet everything that is happening around you looks even more fictive and absurd.
What will Dakar look like in 50 years from now and who will then have access to the sea? This and some other thoughts about the situation with coastline in Dakar will feature in my next documentary film that I am starting to work on. For reference, here is a cross post called Corniche – Live Your Dream from my other blog with a couple of photos from Les Mamelles, and another link to a 59 seconds long trailer for Afropolis 2021 Dakar, the film-to-come. Stay tuned!