Binh Danh

August 30, 2009

While perusing through The Book of alternative photographic processes, I found myself highly interested in the chapter dealing with Anthotypes and Chlorophyll processes. The Chapter ended with striking images printed on leaves by a Vietnamese-born artist named Binh Danh.

 Binh Danh

 At first, I have to admit, I had one of those “ Why didn’t I think of that” moments. Simply sandwich a negative and a leaf in between two sheets of glass , expose to the sun and let nature ( and in this case photosynthesis) do the rest. But Danh’s work is much more than just images juxtaposed on to leaves.  Many of his leaf pieces deal with the Vietnam War , a war that  forced Danh to move to the United States with his family at a young age. Faces and portraits frequent the leaves, creating haunting images as the sun bleaches the leaf.  The leaf also serves as a part of the composition, the shapes of the faces tend to echo the shapes of the leaf.

Binh Danh . Drifting souls. 2000

Binh Danh . Drifting souls. 2000

In the case of Drifting souls. The slender leaf frames the soldiers perfectly. The green and yellow tones that the leaf produces, is noticeably similar to the colors in camouflage uniforms.  Danh talks about his work as ‘decomposing’ to creating something else, almost a sense of rebirth.  

Danh first finds leafs suitable for the negative that he creates on a computer, he then puts the leaf on a felt backing placing the negative on top, and a sheet of glass on top of that. These sun ‘exposures’ can take a few days , up to a few months. If and when satisfied , Danh then casts the pieces in resin in order to preserve them so the images are not lost.

What I appreciate about Binh Danh’s work, is not only is his method very inventive but his themes are personal and relate well with the media in which he works.

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2 Responses to “Binh Danh”

  1. synapsemirror said

    I went to see Danh when he visited Alfred a few years ago. The photos and leaves that he uses are from a specific pacific island used as a quasi Ellis Island for those dislodged from the Vietnam War. He returned to the island in his later years (he was only a small child when his parents escaped) only to find that the processing offices had been destroyed years after being abandoned and the photographs of immigrants were scattered all around.

  2. courtneywilcox said

    Thanks for sharing! I had no idea he had a show at Alfred ( I guess because I wasnt kicking around here quite yet) . I had known about the leaves but not the photos. You just never know what creativity can come out of destruction.

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