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.
The first novel in my upcoming trilogy has a working title Rue de Longue Vie – or: Street of Long Life – and it tells a story that happens mostly in Senegal, with backslashes in Brussels and Nouakchott. Yesterday I went to collect some visual support that I can later use when I write about Brussels related events and now I feel like I should do this more often! This was a quick hop to the Midi station and Gare de l’Ouest, then a ten-minute-walk around two blocks in Ixelles with a fast-paced point-and-shoot tactics. A couple of times I felt like like a voyerist or private eye (too much TV maybe?), the essential thing was to capture something essential that I need in the story. The devil is in the detail!
The Mauritanian tent has found its way to contemporary architecture in Nouakchott. If you stroll the streets of Ksar, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, you will not miss the tent shape in practically every other house. It’s a symbol of a lifestyle in which the movable home is now built in cement and bricks and glass and functions as a fixed space to welcome guests. It’s also a very visible statement telling that the owner of the house has roots in the desert.
Anyone who has been to the desert knows the soothing effect a tent can provide against the scorching sun and hot winds, and how it allows you to feel the evening breeze on your skin when the walls of the tent have been rolled up. You can now find that same effect also in the city: some restaurants and cafés such as the famous La Palmeraie has made their own modern interpretation of the tent part of the attraction in their already very inviting garden and terrace. Some designs – usually it’s the simple and practical ones – are just meant to last and in Mauritania the tent is definitely one of them.
I’ve always had a soft spot for railways, trains, railway bridges and particularly that noise under the bridge when a train passes… I just love the comfort of this most beautiful way of traveling. It is such a shame that the connection between Saint-Louis and Dakar has been lost, for decades now. Some years ago we created a flash mob with local youth and wanted to remind everyone, particularly the decision makers of the municipality, that the town owns a beautiful station building that is falling apart and has been swallowed up by the local market. This beautiful building could be maintained and – ideally – put into good use with and by local cultural actors. We handed out tickets in advance to the train that would arrive on one Saturday morning from New York (!) on its way to Dakar. Then our actual human train would arrive and perform theater and dance at the entrance of the station. I remember that some market sellers were genuinely a little alarmed in advance because their mountains of onions would literally be on the tracks, right where they had always been for years. Perhaps it would be a good time to create a flash mob Edition II with something much more dramatic, as our first attempt went unnoticed by the city hall. We did have fun with the crowds at the market though.
Here’s a few more photos from the gallery space and the current exhibition: photography by Cheikh Beye. It’s so good to have the gallery open again!
Fragments of the work of Cheikh Beye
Cheikh BEYE (1932 – 2012) from Thiès began his career as a photographer in Dakar in 1950. From 1954 he was the manager of the company Euréka-Photo in Thiès.
His photographic work consists, among others, of studio portraits but also press photos of the political sphere, sporting events etc. Naturally, in the city of railways, workers and the activities around the station figure in a large part of his photos.
We would like to thank the Beye family in Thiès for allowing us to show this work.
Fragments de l’oeuvre de Cheikh Beye
Le Thiessois Cheikh BEYE (1932 – 2012) commençait sa carrière comme photographe à Dakar en 1950. À partir de 1954 il était gérant de l’entreprise Euréka-Photo à Thiès.
Son oeuvre photographique consiste, entre autres, des portraits d’atelier mais également des photos de presse de la sphère politique, des événements sportifs etc. Naturellement, dans la ville du rail, les cheminots et les activités autour de la gare figurent dans une grande partie de ses photos.
Nous remercions la famille Beye à Thiès.
Galerie Éthiopique organizes exhibitions, end-of-residency events and film screenings at Rue Potin X Abdoulaye Seck Marie Parsine in Saint-Louis of Senegal. More information: Tel. +221 77 143 88 90 or info[at]ethiopiques.gallery
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.