There are still plenty of alternative print-making processes out there, but it’s not every day you see photographs printed on living patches of grass. For the last 20 years Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey, have been doing just that.
It all started in 1990, Ackroyd and Harvey created an art installation that covered an entire room with grass. As part of the art piece they left a ladder leaning against a wall and when they went to remove it they saw that the fast-growing plant had been imprinted with the shadow. The grass had stayed yellow where the ladder had prevented it from receiving any light.
To harness the effect, they started projecting light through an old 35mm Kodak projector onto a swath of grass on the wall. In the years since they have perfected the process. The area where they grow their installations needs to be totally dark except for the light coming from the 2,500-watt projector that serves at their light source. They use large, specially made 7×7-inch negatives to project on vertical walls. It’s quite literally like a biological dark room.
Their photos usually take about eight days to develop, during the projection, the blades of the grass that receive the most light turn the darkest green because they are able to produce a high concentration of chlorophyll. Those that receive the least amount of light remain yellow because they lack chlorophyll, resulting in a tonal range similar to a black and with print.
“There is a real sense of presence, you really feel like that portrait is present and alive, says Ackroyd. “And I think that is why people are bewitched by the pieces. I think we are very resistant to reducing it to a set of formulas because that would make it about how we do it, and really it’s about why we do it that interest us more.”