The chlorophyll printing process occurs naturally in plants- In the same way people change pigments when exposed to different levels of sunlight. Just as our clothes might leave a mark on our skin in the summer, the image above shows an Aloe Vera plant in Tenerife, in which the silhouettes of the outer leaves of the plant are recorded onto the inner leaves.
The chlorophyll printing process can be practised in two ways:
- By Bleaching
- By Altering the photosynthesis
The main difference between methods is that on method 1 the leaf is in the process of dying while on method 2 is staying alive.
The first method relies on finding the adequate type of leaves and let the sun do the bleaching for as long as it needs. The second method consists on feeding a plant with one exclusive type of light, while it is alive, to force it to change pigments.
Method 1: Bleaching
The bleaching technique is a dye destruction process in which the action of sunlight bleaches the green pigments of a leaf until these fade into pale tones.
When using this method we place transparencies on the top of the leaves. The clear areas of the transparency will be the faded areas on the print. It’s a positive to positive method.
This is a list of small changes I did while I was researching this process and that had a big impact on my research.
- Cut the leaf from the plant only when you are about to expose it to sunlight.
This is because you can only bleach the leaf while it is still alive. If the leaf dries before it bleaches it won’t record any image. You will need to plan “the cutting” according to the weather forecast, and only take it into action when you are ready to go.
- Start the exposure on a sunny day.
This is because of the same principle mentioned above. If the leaf dries before it bleaches it won’t record any image.
4 cloudy days can easily ruin your printing. If the leaf dries and goes brown and curly, no pigments will change from one colour to another.
- Mix the fixer when the exposure has finished.
When clear areas have changed from green to yellow is time to end the exposure. At that precise moment you’ll need to immerse the leaf in the fixer.
Otherwise, the leaf will dry and curl. Here again, you’ll need to calculate the date that you’ll finish the exposure and prepare for it.The chlorophyll process is simple but requires planning and dedication. This series of posts including the step by step video, should guide you towards successful prints!
When I first came across these plants at the Botanical Garden in Tenerife I was convinced they’d be perfect for chlorophyll printing. It turned out they were pretty bad.
In this post I’ll share with you my research on suitable plants, and what went wrong with each one of them.
Spathiphyllum- Also known as Peace lily. This plant belongs to the Araceae family, which is often very appropriate for chlorophyll printing. Its big green flat leaves, which might occasionally turn yellow, made me believe this lily was perfect to work with. However, the outcome was really disappointing. First of all, it takes a lot of time to get any outcome with this plant, and then, the resulting prints, lack of contrast and definition.
Philodendron imperial- Philodendros are a dysfunctional family. While some of them are absolutely fantastic for this process such as philodendron selloum and philodendron giganteum, the royal branch from this family are terrible for chlorophyll printing; avoid using philodendron imperial and pink princess. Climbing philodendros are also pretty bad, including scandens and elongatum.
Devil’s Ivy – Ivy tends to work very well for chlorophyll printing. You might be able to get a quite good print in 2 Summer sunny days. Its green flat leaves are very convenient. It is very easy to source Ivy leaves from the streets and I used to think Ivy was the most convenient plant for the process until I came across the Devil’s variety. It just doesn’t work at all!
This blog post is an archive of things that didn’t work. Realising the 3 facts described below had a very strong impact in my research.
I hope you enjoy my archive of failures and that it saves you some time if you decide to practice the bleaching technique. Enjoy!
UV lamps release very little light compared to the Sun, and they mainly release UVA light. In order to bleach a leaf one needs UVB light mainly, as well as large amounts of visible light.
If you use a UV lamp, it will cook your leaf, as this lamps release much more heat than light!
Black back printing frame
The majority of the photographers working with printing process use printing frames with black backs. It doesn’t work for this process as it helps to rise temperature, and again it will cook the leaf in your printing frame rather than bleaching it!
One layer of acetate
One needs to print the same image twice onto different acetates. This is very important because the Sun bleaches everything including the ink pigments on the acetate. If one wants to have a successful outcome then it is mandatory to have a double layer.
I hope sharing my research journey with you was useful and encouraging :)
Yesterday’s workshop was attended by 300+ people. 226 people view the workshop on Facebook and 90 people view on Instagram!
Thank you all, I hope it encouraged you to try this organic photographic process!
On Thursday 2nd of August from 11:00am to 12:30, I’ll be running a free online chlorophyll printing workshop, with the support from the Professional Development bursary from a-n.
This event is free an open to all artist, but registration is mandatory. You can learn how to print images directly on leaves by signing up here