Lyceum Gallery Toronto
72 Anthotypes

September 14-24, 2023

Transmutations of Light
Martin Helmut Reis
Light exposes the truth and beauty of who we are and leaves an impression that lasts beyond the impermanence of our lives.

“Over a decade ago, I purchased a Ziploc bag of negatives at a garage sale in the Junction neighbourhood in Toronto. The seller told me he had salvaged them from a retired portrait photographer. The name of the photographer and the names of the people shown in the negatives are unknown. For these prints, I made high resolution scans to enlarge the negatives before converting them to positives required to print Anthotypes. The positives were printed on Pictorico transparency film. For the Anthotype emulsion, I collected wild red poppies from a spot near the CNE and made 72 coated sheets of Canson paper. Printing Anthotypes using sunlight can only be done effectively on bright sunny days and in good weather. The 72 prints were exposed in clip frames on top of a friends’ pergola in downtown Toronto over the course of 5 days in full sun during a heat wave in late August. The prints had to be installed and taken down three times due to the chance of rain. Working with these images, I began to imagine what these wonderful humans might be like as people, and what stories they might tell. The flower emulsion used to create these images will continue to expose in the natural light of the gallery, causing the images to disappear from the walls during the course of the show.”

The Anthotype Process

An anthotype is an image created using photosensitive material from plants. This process was originally invented by Mary Somerville who presented her research to Sir John Herschel (who is often misquoted as the inventor) in 1842. An emulsion is made from crushed flower petals or any other light-sensitive plant, fruit or vegetable. A sheet of paper is covered with the emulsion, and then it is dried. Some leaves, a transparent photo positive or other material is placed on the paper; and then it is exposed to direct full sunlight until the image part not covered by the material is bleached out by the sun rays. The color remains in the shadowed parts. The paper remains sensitive against such rays. (Source: Wikipedia)

For these works, Red Poppies were collected from a patch of wild flowers near the CNE, and the resulting coated sheets of paper were exposed combined with positives for five days in strong sunlight.