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.
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.
One of my neighbor’s sheep has just been immortalized on a leaf! My other “sheep on grass” anthotypes did not succeed as nicely just because after one week’s exposure under the Finnish sun the grass had started to roll instead of staying flat. I had sandwiched the grass and the positives in an improvised developing frame that just wasn’t tight enough. Nevertheless, I am excited, and in a couple of days we shall see how my organic selfies and some other photos turn out. Fingers crossed that there will be more sunny days in the coming week.
PS. In case you are wondering what “anthotype” is: it’s an environmentally friendly photo process where all you need to make a print is the photosensitive material of plants, sunshine and time!
Update on July 1 – My organic selfies were badly damaged because of a rainy night so much so that water had reached and soaked the leaves. The only hermetically closed frame that survived had the image of another sheep, see below. I really like this process and will experiment with anthotypes again a little later when back in Senegal, where the rains are not such a bother!
In the middle of our summer residency programme, I am showing some of my work again at the Old Customs House in Kristiinankaupunki during 10-20 June. This magnificent wooden house was build in 1680 and it is a fantastic environment for shows, standing against the constantly changing, disappearing, regenerating nature of our environment.
I have named this series of photographs Evanesce with the emphasis of action rather than a state or a situation, reflecting my constant experience of change and the ephemeral nature of things and light I see around me. Are these images now corresponding to my way of remembering these people, these objects? That is what I am asking myself.
Works: 30×30 cm and 21×29 cm. Prints on Japanese handmade paper; underwater photography; transfers on organic surfaces; mixed media.
In the middle of this spring’s artists’ residency season the house is full of positive work flow and laughter and discussions about life in general, and about being an artist and looking for opportunities to show your work in particular.
Since long time now I preferred very slow processes just because, and I keep reminding myself that it is all about the process. It’s not about sharing my work to the entire world on the social media, because that process easily takes over and interferes with my creative pulses and subconsciously affects my work while it should just be about my love of making things. I had these thoughts just the other day while I was stitching some fabric for a tie dye workshop. I was amused when I realized how little it actually is that you know about what you will be doing at some later stage in your life… who would have thought that I would prefer to sit quietly in the house, listen to my favorite radio station Radio Wassoulou Internationale, and stitch fabric! It was very relaxing and meditative and while I was at it, I thought I could do this much, much more often and make some surprising patterns and dye these fabrics in various shades of indigo. I was also thinking of Aboubacar Fofana and his impressive textile designs. How often do you seriously stop to think whether you should set sail to a completely new direction in your life?
Maybe it’s because my recent walking trip in the Mauritanian desert that I seem to have the urge to go smaller and keep it “simple”? I’m thinking of small spaces and work that would fit in them. It’s a good time to keep listening to Radio Wassoulou and be playful with tie dyes, photography and writing, and go smaller for a change.