Quality Face Time

Black and white art photograph printed on leaf of woman wearing mask over her mouth and chin
Black and white art photograph printed on leaf of man with stars and stripes face mask
black and white art photograph on leaf of woman wearing mask over her mouth
black and white art photograph printed on leaf of two people wearing face masks and giving thumbs up
photograph of negatives being exposed to photosensitized leaves sitting on bench in sunligh

When quarantine hit, I stopped commuting to DC to teach, having friends over for dinner, getting my hair cut. My art practice involved quality face time and large community gatherings, both also stopped. As time passed the loneliness got thicker and my concentration evaporated.

In anticipation of the fall semester, I started exploring ways to teach an analog photography class on Zoom that would be safe for students in their homes, no darkroom, inexpensive, and engaging. I spent five months making chlorophyll prints at which point in time there was not enough UV light to continue. The fall class was canceled but working with the chlorophyll prints was my lifeline until the seasons changed.

Chlorophyll prints are photographs printed directly on leaves using ultraviolet light from the sun. Exposures take days or weeks and the resulting image is fragile and will eventually fade away or crumble to dust.

I worked primarily with images that friends wearing a mask sent me. The process is mostly hurry-up-and-wait, which invited me to resist the anxiety and engage in the processes of slow change.

I made the prints on leaves but each friend made their own portrait, another layer of collaboration and connection. I would sit out back in the shade surrounded by the faces in contact frames lying in the sun. It was hard to sit still even though I had nowhere to go otherwise. The familiar faces helped. Nature helped. It got easier.

My biggest fear is that everything goes back to the way it was before the pandemic, that we collectively try to make bigger Band-Aids instead of genuine change.