Tomas Saraceno was selected to represent the reconfiguration of photography within this book because he went beyond depicting environmental imagery.
Tomas Saraceno was selected to represent the reconfiguration of photography within this book because he went beyond depicting environmental imagery. Environmental consciousness also dictated the means he employed to produce a photograph. The following six photographers were among those considered to represent eco photography in this book:
Daro Montag produces ‘bioglyphs’ in which living matter is incorporated not as a representation but as tangible evidence of a biological event. Montag uses film but not a camera. He ‘develops’ his images, but does not rely on light. Instead, he places organic matter, such as kiwi slices, directly on the emulsion of developed film and allows it to decompose there. The resulting chemistry of fruit and film is then printed to reveal an organic abstraction. The product is physical, not optical. The resulting visual experience is an outcome of a biological process conducted by countless micro organisms that the artist does not control. Unlike conventional photographs that halt time, Montag’s photographs are integrated into the flow of time.
Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey explore the capacity of grass to record images through the production of chlorophyll. The artists project light through negatives onto giant sheets of germinating grass that has been sown into a thin layer of specially preserved clay. Wherever light hits the surface most strongly, the grass grows greenest. Wherever light is missing, the grass becomes a bleached hay color. Thus the equivalent of the tonal range in a black-and-white photograph is produced in the yellow and green shades of living grass. These organic “photographs” are temporary because the exposure to light needed to observe them also corrupts the image. The artists are working with scientists at IGER (Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research) in Wales to create a way to fix these transient images by developing a special strain of grass which keeps its color even when starved of water. In this way they will be able to grow photographic canvases and then dry them, delaying but not avoiding an irreversible loss of image.
Joyce Campbell also records organic form in the process of emergence. She abandoned the camera in favor of photograms, images produced by placing an object on photosensitive paper and exposing it to light. Liquid sterile seaweed agar is poured into the plate and left to gelatinize. Campbell isolates and incubates the strains that exhibit exceptionally elaborate colony morphology. She then provides them with the nutrients and exposes them to light and warmth so they grow and multiply into a culture. The resulting forms are a kind of automatic drawing performed as the bacteria swim through the gelatinous medium. When the bacteria run out of nutrients, they die and are subjected to ‘cliché verre’, a method of etching on a ground-coated transparent material such as glass. After the image is scratched through, the glass is used as a contact negative for photographic printing. The resulting image, which can be extremely large, is printed on a light sensitive paper. It records the organisms’ struggles to remain alive.
Jerry Burchfield’s lumen prints depend upon UV light from the sun for both exposure and development. He places a plant cutting on paper and covers it with a piece of glass to slightly flatten it. It is left exposed to the sun for from 30 minutes to 4 hours. The paper darkens as the exposure progresses. The work is also subjected to the forces of wind and weather. As a result, Burchfield does not anticipate or plan the resulting image. Nature and chance prevail. After exposure the print is soaked for a few minutes in water and then toned if needed. Burchfield’s prints present exotic (non-native) plants from different regional environments throughout the United States or native plants from the Amazon. Through these means the photographs connect directly with natural energies because they are not mediated by a camera or lens or the artist’s predispositions. Air, sunlight, rain and decay register the particularities of the place where the photographic process occurred.
Tue Greenfort first became known for his near-to-nature photographic series, Daimlerstrasse 38 (2001). The series depicts suburban foxes being lured by sausages towards a hidden camera. He has since made other photographic works along the same lines, such as Out of Site (2002) in which a camera hidden in a birdhouse was triggered by the slightest weight on a branch.
Consider each of these alternatives and compare it to Saraceno’s Girasol in terms of manifesting the forces that comprise ecosystems.