What happens when growing grass, varying light levels, and a photo negative coalesce? A modern interpretation of photosynthesis develops.
British duo Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey ‘grow’ art by exchanging paint for seeds and brushes for light. By projecting photographic negatives onto growing grass and controlling light levels they are able to guide chlorophyll production in such a way that spectacular living portraits develop. The photo-growing process takes about a week from seed to finished image.
The process goes like this: A sheet of lawn provides the needed photosensitive surface which is placed in a giant darkroom and exposed to a 400-watt projector bulb passing through a photo negative for prolonged periods of time. The varying densities of the negative’s lighter and darker areas produce a full range of midtones by controlling the light levels in each area. Full bright light produces green, or darker tones, lack of light produces yellow tones.
“It’s very much like developing a black-and-white photograph,” Harvey said. “We project the negative in a completely dark room onto the growing canvas of grass. Where the strongest light is, the grass produces more of the green pigment; where there’s some light, it produces less of it, and where there’s no light, it grows but stays yellow.”
The portraits are best viewed from a distance, as you get closer, the image within the grass will begin to vanish. “It’s like a three-dimensional organic photograph,” Ackroyd said.
“It’s almost like pointillism, except instead of using the points, we’re using the blades.” Added Harvey: “It’s almost like each blade is a pixel, or a brush stroke.”
These organic “photographs” are exhibited in a fresh state only for a short time, excessive light or lack of it eventually corrupts the visibility of the image.