Last summer, I began a body of work on invasive species that are found in the yard. We have been working to eradicate them and introduce native species, but on an acre plot, it is slow going. The invasives have their aesthetic values too, so I combined weed-pulling with the studio experience by creating a series of lumen-photograms. Most of these images are 5” x 7”, which I found more intimate and detailed than the 11”x14” set. (Lumens are photographic images made on silver-gelatin photographic paper, exposed for a long enough length of time as to cause the image to appear without the use of a developer. The image is then “fixed” in the darkroom, which can cause fading. I experiment with dilutions of fix, and incomplete fixing processes to retain as much of the original color as I can.
This summer, I wanted to focus my research on one plant in particular, and experiment in the ways of making the weed-pulling of this plant visually interesting with a “diy photography” approach, that is, without using a more environmentally collaborative process, with less toxic byproducts (the silver-heavy fixative can be recycled; my process makes so little, I allow it to evaporate, then discard the silver-crystaled container).
These images were made using an “eco-printing” process, that relies on a chemical reaction between an iron acid and the tannins found in the plants. I added some other contaminants to the process, like the iron-oak-gall ink I made a few years ago, a tea-ink that never cured right, and a fermented cabbage leaf dye, which added some nice dark grey and blue tones, and some pink highlights. Then all of it was steamed for hours with the fresh-pulled weeds, which was very stinky. These prints are between 3”x4” and 5”x7”.
Plantago major, the broadleaf plantain can be found across the United States, and was one of the earliest invasive plant species brought by the colonists to establish itself in North America. This herb is edible as a salad, as a steamed veggie, as a tea, and as a poultice to relieve pain and promote healing for stings, burns, cuts, inflammation, and eye injuries. It is so effective and prevalent, many native groups of the Americas began incorporating it into their medicines soon after it was introduced. They named it White Man’s Footprint, as it grew wherever the Europeans had settled.
Ornithogalum umbellatum, the Star of Bethlehem, a garlic-like bulb with an attractive grass tuft formation, and pretty 6-petaled white blooms, is an invasive species that escaped the gardens it was originally planted to decorate. In Indiana, it can be found in lawns, forests, or pastures. It is toxic, though some folk medicines use it to treat life-threatening heart conditions, and some cultures include it in cuisine.