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 positive 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.

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Untitled photo

I painted the pomegranate emulsion on to various types of paper - Indian rag, watercolour, cartridge and some paper that I made this 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 tried two types of anthotype images - contact prints using a positive transparency and photograms using objects placed on the paper. For the contact prints I processed some of my photographs in Lightroom and added more contrast 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 special printer transparency film (acetate) using an inkjet printer. These were placed over the pomegranate coated paper and placed in clip frames. For the photograms I placed Japanese Maple leaves and a fern on the paper from my garden and sandwiched these into clips frames.

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Untitled photo

Here are some of the clip frames on my attic room window.  They were stuck on with gaffer tape but they kept falling off due to their weight.  The solution to this is to just stick it on the window without the clip 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 were  ready to go, I just needed a few days/weeks of good UV light. The UK is not renowned for its bright sunshine in Winter, this was 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 I should have left them for longer or experimented in the summer. However I did get some very interesting results despite the British weather!

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.

If you try this at home please wear rubber gloves and old clothes and remember some plants can be very poisonous.

The darker areas of an Anthotype will fade in the sun so do not hang them in direct sunlight or better still store them in a dark place .

Useful links

Alternative - 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