A few years ago I started experimenting with chemigrams, using expired motion picture film for my film Dark Matter (2014). These experiments were continued in the expanded cinema performance Pattern/Chaos (2015) and the film Wilderness Series (2016). For all of these works I used caffenol developer, an alternative process developed by Dr Scott Williams in his technical photochemistry class at the Rochester Institute for Technology in 1995. Industrial chemicals are replaced by soda, vitamin C and instant coffee, giving excellent results. Caffenol was further developed by a collective of photographers resulting in the online publication of The Caffenol Cookbook (2012, Sibbern-Larsen et al). I got interested in the use of caffenol and through an online forum mediated by filmlabs.org, I read a post by artist and filmmaker Ricardo Leite who specializes in biodegradable chemistry. He raised the prospect of replacing the instant coffee with mint and attached pictures of his results. This brought me to the idea of soaking mint leaves in a soda and vitamin C solution and applying these directly to film-emulsion. The results of these experiments are incorporated in my film Wilderness Series.
Seeking to expand this method of image making, I started to set-up a series of experiments with different plants, soaking each in a soda and vitamin C solution and applying the soaked leaves to film-emulsion. These experiments resulted in increasingly distinct images showing the internal structure of leaves and petals on the film. This process combines the internal chemistry of the plant with the caffenol recipe and is further aided by exposure to sunlight. The derived images are neither pure photograms nor chemigrams. Thus, I propose to call these type of images phytograms as in the combining form phyto- (from Greek phuton ‘a plant’) similar to photogram, chemigram and chemogram.