Raspberry Anthotypes

Raspberry anthotype print, 3 days exposure
Raspberry anthotype print, 3 days exposure

I've been paging through the excellent Book of Alternative Photographic Processes by Christopher James.

Anthotypes caught my eye as something fun and easy to try. It's an early process that uses flower or plant material (the name is from the greek anthos meaning flower).

If you've ever noticed paint or fabric washed out from spending a long time in the sun, that's basically the process!

There's a good step-by-step set of directions with photos on the Alternative Photography website, but basically:

  • mash up some flowers, plants, or fruits to produce a liquid.
    • optionally add alcohol to help with extraction, or vinegar (supposedly darkens?).
    • optionally strain out seeds, etc.
  • coat some watercolor paper with the liquid and let it dry
  • place something on the paper to block the sun where you want the image to appear
    • the color of the paper will be the darkest area of the print
    • anything uncovered will be lightened by the sun
      • unlike a 'typical' process, you want a positive image, not a negative
    • you can use cutouts, plants, etc. or print a black and white image on a transparency
    • a clip photo frame will help keep everything in place
  • put it in the sun, and wait!

Raspberry anthotype prints, in progress
Raspberry anthotype prints, in progress

Exposure times seem to vary greatly depending on the plant material used.

For my prints, I used raspberry with some alcohol and put them out in the sun for 3 full days. They probably could have used another day or two, but I got impatient.

Raspberry anthotype print
Raspberry anthotype print

As far as I know, there's no known way to fix the images (make them permanent). Over time and with more UV exposure the images will eventually fade.

Anthotypes are a very old process (1842), but they never became that popular because of the long exposure times and image impermanence - there's still a lot to explore!

It's a really fun, easy, safe and environmentally friendly photographic process. I'd definitely recommend giving it a try!

I'm looking forward to trying it more with other plants. Blackberries and spinach look like they produce good results with reasonable exposure times. Onion skin looks really fantastic, but seems to take a month or more (I'm not sure I have the patience required).