Anthoypes – My Garden Darkroom

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Exploring the Anthotype process was one of the best things to come out of Lockdown for me. This process was ‘invented’ by John Herschel around 1841 as he was trying to pave the way for colour photography, it even pre-dates Cyanotype. Up until then the only photos were rusty-coloured black & white . Over a century later, I am branching out from my own rusty-looking black & white to try some colour! In summer, when the darkroom was closed, my little city garden became my darkroom.

Herschel used natural dyes from flowers and vegetables. I mainly used extracts from plants I had grown. Some plants work better than others, and many plants I tested do not work well at all. But its a Eureka moment when they do !

I will run a workshop on Anthotype in summer 2021. Its great to bring people closer to plants with a 100% eco process using plants and sunlight alone.

Painting in Lockdown

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When we weren’t allowed to go out of the house, I borrowed some of my daughter’s paints and did the “Paint-a-Long” sessions with Sky Artist of the Year.

I was interested in the first sitter as he was photographer Rankin, he had some interesting banter. He said “photographers can’t paint” which I suppose is true to an extent, but we do paint with light, and I find than any exercise that makes you examine light (and hence colour) is very worthwhile training. I would argue that every good photographer can paint, perhaps they just haven’t tried it yet.

As a Portrait photographer, you have to be able to notice every shadow and highlight, every nook and cranny, on the face. You have to get to know your model fast, get some of the 2-way chemistry flowing in the room. The same goes for painting a sitter. On-line you don’t have the same rapport, you have to work even harder to find the personality that you want to bring out.

Judge Rinder was the next sitter. He was chatting about how, in a law court, faces can lie. Under the most innocent of faces can be a serial killer. This peaked my interest. As a portrait photographer you have to get beneath the skin of the model, somehow the camera is the instrument that enables that. Its like having X-ray vision.

These were painted on boards that I found on a walk , dumped in my street .

My fledgeling paintings got some good feedback on Instagram so I put myself forward for the #PortraitsForNHSHeroes project.

I had several takers contact me, some with harrowing tales and working all hours. I accepted the first to contact me, Kirsty , a physio from St.Thomas hospital. It was hard to paint her from a dimly-lit selfie in mask and visor, obviously taken on duty. But when I look at the other NHS portraits they are all so similar. There’s a media blackout on cameras in wards, but looking at a feed full of masked nurses and doctors you get an impression of what it must be like. I wonder if I can see fear , fatigue and bravery in their eyes.

UPDATE

I posted Kirsty’s painting and she loves it.

Now as we enter Tier 2 in London, its time to dust off the paintbrushes again. Portrait Artist of the Year paint-along on Insta recommences Sunday 18th Oct – have a try.