The technique is called chlorophyll printing and the Tiruvannamalai- based photographer has been doing it for the past 10 years
How would you like your favourite memories transferred on to leaves? A decade ago, Vinodh Baluchamy learnt that photographs can be printed on fresh leaves. “I was reading a book and stumbled upon the subject. To know that we can create photo prints with simple things from Nature was a revelation. The process is called chlorophyll printing and it makes use of the natural green pigment in the leaves to create images,” he says. Vinodh is a professional photographer and is founder of Yaa Studio, an experimental photography studio in Tiruvannamalai.
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The first step of the process is to take a print of the desired image on an overhead projector sheet. “This is easily available in most local stationery stores. This sheet should be kept on the leaf you want to be printed. Place a piece of glass on top of this and leave it undisturbed under direct sunlight till the image appears on the leaf,” he explains. The chlorophyll in the leaf is photosensitive and this is responsible for image formation. “The process can be done in six hours. But I have had experiences where it took an entire week.” The intensity of the sunlight and the kind of leaf you use determines the time needed to create a print. “There is no way to tell, and that is the most exciting bit in this creation.” He suggests spraying the print with any natural resin solution or applying a thin layer of wax over it to preserve it for a longer period.Vinodh’s first work was a portrait of agricultural scientist G Nammalvar. “I am inspired by his way of life and did not have to think twice for my first subject. I got an image but it was not very sharp. I still have it preserved as a memory.” After that he printed more than 250 leaves; his subjects include people, animals, statues and Nature around him.
“Most of my experiments are done with my students: Musiri Arun, Sathish S and Satish Sitharthan. We have figured out that the image comes out well in leaves of banana, betel leaf, jamun and Indian beech tree. It can be difficult to get it in leaves of vallarai keerai and cactus varieties.”The team has also conducted over 15 photography workshops in Tamil Nadu, Mizoram, and Karnataka, teaching children how to create images using a pinhole camera and different printing process including cyanotype. “I think chlorophyll printing is a good way for children to take a break from the virtual world and connect with Nature. In most of my classes, kids do it with keen interest and often see image formation as magic. It introduces them to concepts of light and printing.”The most important skill needed for chlorophyll printing is patience. “Once the leaf is placed under the sun, we do not have much control over the process. We have to wait till the image is formed.” He is now working on developing a syllabus on light for kids. “I will need a few months to complete it. I also have plans to introduce leaf printing workshops in my studio from next month,” he concludes.