Photography is a ubiquitous medium in contemporary society, and one that most people have the means of creating at any time. The quickness and ease of photography today produces an endless stream of mundane, throwaway images that generally remain in digital format, never intended to be printed. This state of affairs can make the sight of a thoughtfully and carefully created hard copy photograph even more special. When the subject transcends the cursory and the printing process produces a physical object of esthetic weight, the experience of the photograph can be a rich and multifaceted discovery.
The work of Samantha Bias brings a welcome sense of seriousness and purpose to the photographic medium. One especially noteworthy aspect of her creative output is a series of images printed on ephemeral objects, particularly the leaves of plants. She employs an organic method of printing known as the Chlorophyll Process. The development of this technique has been attributed to Binh Danh, a Vietnamese-born, Stanford University-educated artist. Bias had long been a watercolorist before stumbling upon her own independent path to alternative photography. As she states:
“After learning much to do about photography, particularly film, and other chemical processes, I did not much want to contribute to waste. That is when I began to research the photosynthetic properties of plants (much like the photochemistry we use for light-sensitive photography), thus blossomed the idea to try the chlorophyll process using a large format photo positive placed so delicately on a leaf and set in the sun. Dozens of failures lead me to believe it wasn’t even possible. Then one day I was able to create a piece using the Chlorophyll Process method.”
The subjects of Bias’ imagery vary in intriguing ways, with portraiture playing a prominent role. Her use of an image of the great American activist Angela Davis creates an engaging balance between strength and sensitivity. Davis has been an important voice for socioeconomic and climate justice, including animal rights (among other issues), and continues her efforts to this day. The image depicts her from her early 1970’s period and captures a thoughtful yet defiant pose. The relationship between the image and the printed object touches on the fragility of life and the passage of time, knowing that Davis is now 77 years old.
Angela Davis, photosynthesis photography on burdock leaf, 11x14” 2020
Architecture is another subject Bias addresses in this body of work. One such piece depicts one of the four statues on Cleveland’s Hope memorial Bridge known as the Guardians of Transportation (the inspiration for the new name of the Cleveland major league baseball team). This is a particularly strong example of the relationship between the enduring and the ephemeral. Of this series Bias states:
“The architectural works were created this year (2021) in collaboration with well-known photographer and gallerist Zack Hoon. Works comprised of Zack's sharp shooting eye of beloved Cleveland landmarks coupled with my vision and process. Zack and I worked start to finish together sharing our processes and making it a fully collaborative project.”
The Guardian, photosynthesis photography on Hosta leaf, collaboration by Samantha Bias and Zack Hoon, 11x14” 2021
Her Hands, photosynthesis photography on two Hosta leaves, 8x10” 2020
Greta Thunberg, photosynthesis photography on monstera leaf, 11X14”, 2020
Samantha Bias is a Cleveland, Ohio native. She is a two-time recipient of the National Arts Program first place winner in the Professional Category and has taken home Best of Show in several major galleries locally and nationally. In 2020 she had a solo exhibition at the Shaker Historical Society Museum in Shaker Heights, Ohio. She has a permanent piece hanging in PhotoMuse, a photography museum in Kerala India.