I have lived across from Van Cortlandt Park most of my life. It has been a place of wonder and solace for me. I have photographed the park for more than thirty years. In 2006 I started to gather plants from the park and using a very old technique of placing them on top of black and white photography paper and letting them sit there in a garden for up to two days. I would then collect the photo paper and bring it to my darkroom and fix the images created by the sun - light passing through and around each species of plant life. This is a technique that Henry Fox Talbot used in 1840 when he created some of the first photographic permanent images. It is also a technique many children have used with sun proof paper. It was also a time when I was beginning to transition into digital and my darkroom was becoming very difficult to be in for long periods of time because of the many floods I had. I began to think that these paper negatives that I created would benefit from reversing the image and I thought that I could use the scanner and the Adobe Photoshop software as my enlarger.
The results of this new synthesis of the old photo technique with the new digital scanner proved to be better than I would have imagined. Not only was I able to make positive images, but also I was able to bring back the color. The color that was created was from a combination of variables: the chemicals in the plant reacting to the sun and paper. I used various black and white papers and the images were left out in many different weather conditions including rain. In Adobe Photoshop I was also able to highlight certain colors and de-emphasize others but in all cases I used the colors that were present from the scans.
I believe that I have created very unique images from this process – sharp and soft, representative of a species and yet individual at the same time. I like to think of these images as portraits of species that we pass and may never think about and yet they are denizens of the park who have been there before us and will be there long after we are gone.
Click to go to the full Gallery.