Anthotype is an alternative photography process using the light sensitive qualities of plants (including fruits, vegetables, leaves, flowers, roots etc) to make a photographic image without using chemicals. It is done by making an emulsion from plant material and using this to coat paper several times to create more depth of colour, remembering to dry between each coat. Then either a photo transparency or flat item such as leaves are placed on the paper to block out the light. This is then placed in a contact frame or simple clip frame and left in the sun for hours, days or weeks to let the bleaching action of the sun do its work. The process is dependent on many different factors such as:
- Light sensitivity of the plant material
- How the emulsion is made
- Quality of UV light
- Type of paper used
Making the Emulsion from a Pomegranate
I removed the seeds from the pomegranate and crushed them using a pestle and mortar. I then sieved the crushed seeds and juice over a bowl and used the back of a spoon to release even more juice from the seeds and also to remove any solid material from the mixture.
A wide range of colours were created from just one pomegranate
I painted the pomegranate emulsion on to various types of paper – Indian rag, watercolour, cartridge and some paper that I made this summer purely from wild flowers. The greeny-blues & greys were made by adding bicarbonate of soda to the emulsion. It made a nice fizz as the acid from the pink pomegranate emulsion mixed with the alkali of the bicarbonate of soda when it changed colour. Once I had done my test strips I then coated A5 and A4 sheets of paper three times with the emulsion to get more depth of colour and drying between each coat. I used a hairdryer to speed up the process.
I processed some of my photographs in Lightroom to make them much more contrasty i.e. blacker blacks and brighter whites. The transparency needs to be black in order for it to block out the UV light. I then printed them onto printer transparency film (acetate) using an inkjet printer. These were placed over the pomegranate coated papers (along with some leaves) and placed in clip frames to dry.
Anthotypes set up ready to go, now where has that UV light gone? Hold on I’m in the UK in Winter, this could be tricky!
Here are some of the clip frames on my attic room window. They were stuck on with gaffer tape but still kept falling off. The solution to this is to just stick it on the window without the frame! I also used a piece of sticky tape to hold the paper and acetate together so that I could check the progress from time to time. Of course a contact frame or clip frame still needs to be used for the leaves or light will seep through underneath them. Ok, so the anthotypes are ready to go. I just need a few days/weeks of good UV light. The UK is not renowned for its bright sunshine in Winter, this could be tricky!
Results of My First Anthotypes Using a Pomegranate.
I left my Anthotypes on the window for just 11 days. With the limitations of the British Winter sun (it is completely overcast and grey outside as I write this) I should have left them for longer. However I did get some very interesting results despite the British weather!
Hover over an image with your cursor to read the text or click on the image to see it full size.
Acetate on standard printer paper
Result: a subtle but detailed print.
Acer leaves on Indian rag paper.
Result: Brightly coloured detailed print.
Acetate on Indian rag paper with splashes of bircabonate of soda emulsion.
Result: Interesting colours and if you really look you can see my cat, although the spots are very distracting from the image.
Fern on handmade wildflower paper
Result: Strong colour but the roughness of the handmade paper made the image less detailed.
Acetate on Indian rag paper.
Result: A subtle print but needs more UV light to be a success.
I have put some of these Anthotypes back in the window to see if they will bleach some more. Next time I will try this when the weather is better and research more UV reactive plant materials.
I love the mix of art and science for the Anthotype process. I am always looking for new ways to mix my photographs with mixed media.
Overall I think this was a success but it is just one experiment in a whole world of possibilities of Anthotypes.
Alternative photography.com – link to more detailed instructions on how to make anthotypes
Hortus Lucas – Nettie Edwards, artist and mobile photographer who inspired me to try the process