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How to… Make an Anthotype!

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How to… Make an Anthotype!

An anthotype is a photograph created using liquidated plant matter. The image itself is created through the process of photosynthesis. I initially became interested in anthotypes when researching eco-artists, and stumbled across the work of Rosemary Horn, who was a huge inspiration for me. The main aspect that I love about anthotypes is their fragility and individuality. If left out in sunlight for too long, they disappear, and no two anthotypes are identical.

The process

  • Find a plant you like, or buy some leaves from the local shop. I went for spinach because it photosythesises quickly and is a really bright green.

  • Borrow your mum’s blender and blend the leaves to a paste, then sieve out all the lumps.

  • Paint it onto paper, I found water colour paper to be the best because it absorbs the liquid better.

  • Put the object or positive film on top of the paper and squash it down with a piece of glass or attach it with something so it won’t move…

  • Leave it out in the sun or because of the current climate, leave it out in the clouds with the sun hiding behind it. You could leave it for a day or a year, it’s up to you, time gives varying results and it’s for you to find out what works best for you.

    No camera required

    The wicked thing about anthotypes is you can create them at home so easily, and you don’t even need to shell out hundreds of quid on the latest camera.

    You’re probably thinking why would I even bother making one… the truth is you probably wouldn’t any other time of the year, but it’s not long until Christmas and these beautiful unique works of art would make a pretty cool present or card, especially if you’re strapped for cash like myself. Because the days are now quite short and we don’t get a lot of sun, it’s probably best to leave them out for around a week to get the best results.
    Anthotypes aren’t just restricted to paper as well… you can use the actual plants and leaves to print photos onto. It’s basically the same process as before except you don’t need paper or to make a mess. If you’ve got some negatives they’re really cool to use but if not you can use leaves or any other semi transparent stuff you have. Find a nice bush with nice sized leaves and attach your negatives or object to the leaf, with tape or something of the sort. Then all you have to do is leave it for a couple of days. After a couple of days go back and check on it and you’ll find you have a photo on a leaf. Yes that’s right, an actual photo on a leaf! Photograph the leaf with your camera because after another couple of days the image will disappear sadly.

    When creating my anthotypes I like to have some sort of organic theme to the photos as I’m using such an organic medium. I like to use photos I have taken on my large format camera because it gives it that Victorian-esque feel and it creates such unique images. I’m going to start using the anthotype paper as film and make the photo straight out the of the camera. This is also something you could try yourself. Make a pin hole camera and create a really long exposure anthotype. I guarantee you’ll be pleased with the results.

    Words and images: Zac Patsalides

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