Vietnamese-born artist Binh Danh prints photographs onto living leaves. Seen here, The Leaf Effect: Study for Metamorphosis #2, 2006, 11.5 x 9.5 x 2 inches, chlorophyll print, butterfly specimen and resin. From Danh’s artist page at the Haines Gallery:

 Images Bdan.8649.Lg Danh has invented a technique for printing found photographs (digitally rendered into negatives) onto the surface of leaves by exploiting the natural process of photosynthesis. The leaves, still living, are pressed between glass plates with the negative and exposed to sunlight from a week to several months. Coined “chlorophyll prints” by the artist, the fragile works are encapsulated and made permanent through casting them in solid blocks of resin. By conjoining his process into his conceptual ideas so completely, Danh is also able to reference the history and technical developments of photography.

He says of his work, “Throughout my education, I have always been very attracted to Art, History, and Science. The histories I search for are the hidden stories embedded in the landscape around me. The processes used in my work represent my interest in the sciences and photographic techniques.”

Link to Haines Gallery, Link to an Examiner.com article about Danh’s last exhibition, Link to NPR “Talking Plants” program about Danh from 2003 (Thanks, Jennifer Lum!)

Study for Metamorphisis no. 2

Study for Transmission no. 3

Study for Metamorphisis no. 4

Found Portraits Collection no. 7

Botany no. 11

Ancestral Altar no. 20

Untitled no. 10

Untitled no. 15

Untitled no. 19

Binh Danh

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“It’s almost my religious practice when I make my own artwork because I’m coming up with my own concept about what is life, what is death, what is consciousness, what is history.”
— Binh Danh

View Spark segment on Binh Danh. Original airdate: May 2006. (Running Time: 9:30)

 

Each of the faintly rendered faces peering out from Binh Danh’s leaf prints tells a story, as well as asks questions about history — likewise for Danh, who moved from war-torn Viet Nam as a young child in 1979. His work stems from his own unanswered questions about what happened in his native country. As he attempts to navigate the boundaries existing between personal and collective memories, he has used his work to give a face to the human costs of war.

Danh is not a photographer in the conventional sense — instead he works from an existing archive of photographs depicting the war’s many victims that he collects from various sources. Once he finds an appropriate image, he uses digital technology to make a negative transfer. From there, his work takes on a decidedly organic quality.

A lifelong interest in science primed the young artist to invent his own development process, which he coined “chlorophyll prints.” Danh begins by gathering leaves from his garden. Then he takes his negative image transfer and places it over a leaf, sandwiching the items between two sheets of glass. The arrangement is laid in the sun for a period of time (days or even weeks) until the ghostly visage appears. If it meets his approval, he then fixes the leaf in resin. According to the artist, this form of photography mirrors the continuing cycle of nature.

Spark catches up with Danh as he prepares for a collaborative installation with photographer Elizabeth Moy for their exhibition at the Intersection for the Arts (May 3 through June 17, 2006). Moy, whose father served in Viet Nam, shares an affinity with Danh in that her work seeks to reimagine the past. Seen together, their photographs create a space for reflection and contemplation of history that resonates in present times.

Binh Danh earned his B.F.A. in photography from San Jose State University and his M.F.A. from Stanford University in 2004. He has completed a residency at Cite Internationale Des Arts in Paris and has exhibited widely in the Bay Area, including shows at SF Cameraworks, the Kearny Street Project, the Oakland Museum of Art and the Triton Museum of Art. His work is included in the collections of the Oakland Museum of California and the University of California, Santa Cruz’s Special Collection.

 

Binh Danh

 

 

copyright information and credits

 


(Click for more images)

 

Binh Danh was born in Vietnam in 1977 before his family immigrated to the United States that same year. He received his BFA in Photography from San Jose State University and completed the prestigious MFA program at Stanford University in 2004.

Danh has invented a technique for printing found photographs (digitally rendered into negatives) onto the surface of leaves by exploiting the natural process of photosynthesis. The leaves, still living, are pressed between glass plates with the negative and exposed to sunlight from a week to several months. Coined “chlorophyll prints” by the artist, the fragile works are encapsulated and made permanent through casting them in solid blocks of resin. By conjoining his process into his conceptual ideas so completely, Danh is also able to reference the history and technical developments of photography.

He says of his work, “Throughout my education, I have always been very attracted to Art, History, and Science. The histories I search for are the hidden stories embedded in the landscape around me. The processes used in my work represent my interest in the sciences and photographic techniques.”
Danh’s imagery has received considerable notice with exhibitions at the Oakland Museum of Art, the Triton Museum of Art and SF Camerawork. His work is included in the permanent collections of Oakland Museum of California and the University of California, Santa Cruz’s Special Collection. He will be in residency at Cite Internationale Des Arts in Paris from late

Binh Danh’s Chlorophyll Art

Listen to Ketzel on Chlorophyll Art NPR’s Ketzel Levine profiles Vietnamese-born photographer Binh Danh, who uses the power of the sun to print pictures on leaves. At the age of 25, Binh Danh is one of the youngest artists to be invited into Stanford University’s master of fine arts program.

photo gallery icon Photo Gallery: Artist Binh Danh

Lost and Found
The chlorophyll print, “Lost and Found.”
Leaf and baggie
Binh Danh’s canvas: a nasturtium leaf.
Ketzel Levine on the left, and Binh Danh at work
The artist develops his leaf prints on the roof.
Danh Family
The Danh family.
Photo credit
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June 23, 2003 — When Binh Danh prints pictures on leaves, something inexplicable happens. His small, green canvases expand beyond measure with both the seen and the unseen. The serenity of the Buddha on a circular nasturtium suggests a primordial, benevolent world; armed soldiers in camouflage, crouched in calla lily foliage, appear to be both predator and prey; and a young Vietnamese boy, held in the fingered palm of a philodendron, aches with human vulnerability.

As a photographer, Binh Danh has found that chlorophyll prints capture his belief in the interconnectedness of the natural world. One of his pictures features soldiers in the jungle; their image is printed on a very long, tropical leaf. “In a way,” he says, “the soldiers in their camouflage uniforms are becoming one with the landscape.” He also makes poignant use of leaves that are marred by insects or scarred by weather, which he finds add a sense of injury and decay to his prints.

From start to finish, his technique is this: Binh Danh begins by picking a leaf — often from his mother’s garden. To keep it from drying out, he fills a small bag with water and ties it to its stem. He places the leaf on a felt-covered board, and puts a negative directly on the leaf (he has an archive of images he’s collected from magazines and purchased online). He places glass over the leaf, clips the glass and board together, and puts the assemblage on the patio roof.

Binh Danh will check the image periodically to see how it’s “baking.” The process can last days or weeks. Four out of five times, he’s dissatisfied, and throws the leaf away. But when the chlorophyll print is right — whether precisely rendered or eerily vague — he takes the leaf, fixes it in resin, and frames it.

Though the images he chooses are often haunting and heart-wrenching, the Vietnamese-born Danh is not angry about the difficult years his family experienced during the Vietnam War. The 25-year-old Stanford University graduate student says it’s time to lay aside blame. “I try to look at all positions,” he says, “and learn from history. So we don’t repeat it again.”



Wounded Sight
, 2001
Chlorophyll print, cast in resin
12 x 10 in.
Collection of the artist



Mother and Child
, 2001
Chlorophyll print, cast in resin
30 x 14-1/2 in.
Collection of the artist



Soldier and Child
, 2001
Chlorophyll print, cast in resin
14-1/4 x 10 in.
Collection of the artist



Wounded Heart
, 2001
Chlorophyll print, cast in resin
17 x 11 in.
Collection of the artist



Untitled #2
(scream of death), 2001
Chlorophyll print, not cast in resin
2 x 3-1/2 in.
Collection of the artist



Untitled
(father), 2001
Chlorophyll print, cast in resin
24-1/2 x 15-1/2 in.
Collection of the artist



Drifting Souls
, 2001
Chlorophyll print, cast in resin
12 x 18 in.
Collection of the artist



Untitled #5
(civilian protest), 2001
Chlorophyll print, cast in resin
11 x 13 in.
Collection of the artist



Wounded Sight
, 2001
Chlorophyll print, cast in resin
12 x 10 in.
Collection of the artist

Binh Danh
Binh Danh was born in 1977 in Kien Giang City, Vietnam. He has a B.F.A. in Photography, with a Minor in Asian American Studies from San Jose State University (California). Danh is the recipient of the Veronica Lew Button Scholarship from the SJSU’s School of Art and Design, the Alumni Association Scholarship from the College of Humanities and the Arts, and a Bank of America Achievement Award in the Field of Fine Arts. His solo exhibitions at San Jose State University include “Botany Specimens” (1998); “Killing Death” (1999); “Boat People: Self-Portraits” (2000); “The Beauty of Decay” (2001); and “Vietnam” (2001). More recently, his work was selected for “Introductions” at the Institute of Contemporary Art, San Jose, California

In this body of work, I have recorded the images of the Vietnam War onto and into tropical plants. One summer, I was motivated to experiment with photosynthesis and its pigments after watching the lawn change color due to a water hose that was placed on it. Soon after that observation, I was making chlorophyll prints.
Photosynthesis takes place in plants as carbon dioxide, water, and light energy is converted to sugars and oxygen. Photosynthesis is the main route by which free energy in the environment is made available to the living world. In my work, photosynthesis is used to record images onto leaves. 

The leaves are then cast in resin, like biological samples for scientific studies. The images were first digitized and transferred to transparencies, then exposed onto tropical leaves. The image formation was all due to chlorophyll, light, carbon dioxide, and water: the life source of plants and, consequently the Earth. Binh

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