In my project, Irreplaceable, anthotype portraits highlight
flora and fauna native to Florida with an emphasis on at-risk and endangered species. The anthotypes take shape through natural processes like sun bleaching and the use of plant juices. The fragility of the prints, which fade over time, symbolize the vulnerability faced by the species they depict, evoking a sense of loss and impermanence. For instance, in Florida Panther, the face of a panther emerges from an atmospheric burnt orange haze. The monochromatic effect, wrought from turmeric-coated paper, gives it a ghostly appearance. This critically imperiled big cat seems to gaze at us, perhaps aware that only 200 of its kind remain in the wild. Other plants, mostly foraged from my yard and kitchen, yield similar colorfield washes. These include red dragon fruit, petunia, chard, beetroot, blackberry, spinach, turmeric, butterfly pea flowers, among others. The properties of the plant pigments determine each print's eventual color and dictate its required sun exposure duration, influenced by the season and weather. Consequently, exposure times for individual anthotypes range from hours to months.
The subjects of the Irreplaceable portraits are initially photographed within their natural habitats and at local conservation organizations*. Subjects range from a deep red morning glory found exclusively in the pine rocklands of Miami-Dade County (Man in the Ground/Ipomoea microdactyla) to the Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta), threatened by habitat loss and incidental capture by commercial fisheries. Reviving a nontoxic 19th-century technique pioneered by the Scottish scientist Mary Somerville, the contemplative anthotype process now merges historical and contemporary photographic methods to underscore a sense of time that is both circular and finite. Inviting viewers to contemplate their beauty and precarity, the images serve as a reminder that some of these anthotypes could outlast the plants and animals they enshrine without further conservation efforts. Above all, Irreplaceable urges us to protect these vital life forms while we can, and reminds us that the ecological systems they sustain—and are sustained by—include human beings.
* Thank-you Busch Wildlife Sanctuary, Fairchild Botanical Gardens, Flamingo Gardens, and Loggerhead Marinelife Center for your assistance and the work you do.