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.
Right next to Diama on the Mauritanian border there is a small and picturesque village called Maka-Diama. We had a ride to the village today and visited a project that makes paper out of a weed called typha that grows by the Senegal river. This plant can be used for thatched roofs or cooking fuel, or even paper. In order to create better working conditions for the women who make paper out of typha, the NGO behind the initiative has build a house out of local materials. The building project started in April 2019 and the house is now proudly standing and almost ready to be used. Before operating fully as a work space and a show room, some finishing touches and interior decoration is now all it takes. In the future this beautiful house will serve also as a meeting point for people interested in local crafts, ecological architecture and design.
Momordica sharantia known as mbeurbof, here used for making soap
Hot outside, cool inside
The reddish earth that has been used for the bricks has been brought here from near Dakar and we witnessed how the construction technique with silt provides an amazing cooling effect inside the house: when we entered the building we could immediately feel it. Next to the main building there is a separate lavatory in which the waste water is collected and processed to irrigate a garden of aromatic plants. So the workshops will not produce just paper but also soaps and aromatic oils. If you are on your way to or coming from Diama and crossing the Mauretanian border, do drop by in this beautiful small village. The village women can make you a delicious yassa poulet for lunch in no time at all and while waiting for your meal, you can visit the workshop and cool down in this beautiful house and perhaps buy some handmade paper and fragrant oils and soaps.
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!
People come into our lives, and then they go. We are surrounded by persons and things that evanesce, vanish, fade away. This series catches those moments before they turn imperceptible. Are these photographs glimpses of something fleeting before our eyes? Or, are they but vague manifestations of the past in our memory?
Ay nit dañuy dund ci sunu biir ba noppi dem seen yoon. Lépp li ñu wor dafay rombë ni melax, ni mes, seey ba faw. Nataal yi dañuy wone jëf yooyule ni ñuy jaare ci sunu kanam badi seey ci jawu ji. Ndax nataal yi du ñu doon rekk luy nes-nesi ci sunu suufu gët? Walla it ñu doon fattalikub xew-xewu demb ci biir sunu xel?
Limited edition archival pigment prints on Hahnemühle Gloss Baryta, 30×30 cm.
This is a short selection of portraits from my ongoing series called Flashbacks from the Future. It is a work-in-progress of underwater photography that has been transferred on organic surfaces in the later stages of the process. I hope to show a full series in summer 2019.