Posts tagged: Art

Salford Rediscovered, 16th June 2022 

Rediscovering Salford has been a city-wide programme of events, highlighting and celebrating Salford’s green spaces. The programme was inspired by the launch of RHS Bridgewater gardens in May 2021. Over 2020-2022, Rediscovering Salford animated the city with new commissions, exhibitions, workshops and events. To close the project, we gathered together to share and celebrate the project across Salford Museum and Art Gallery, the University of Salford campus and Peel Park. 

Salford Rediscovered was a celebration of music, films, tours, performances, workshops and a one-time-only appearance of Madam Mort, as created by drag artist Cheddar Gorgeous. A party for anyone and everyone in Salford to enjoy.  

Anthotype workshops

During the event, I held two Anthotype workshops, based at the IGNITION Living Lab in the heart of the University of Salford Campus. I discovered this historic process when collaborating with the IGNITION project and RHS Communities exploring nature-based solutions to climate change. You can read more about my work making anthotypes with the Youth group from Action for Conservation back at Easter here. 

Anthotypes are photographic prints made using plants, in these workshops we used spinach. The spinach is blended down to create a light-sensitive emulsion which is applied to paper in several layers. Once the paper is dry, photographic transparencies, or other objects can be placed on the paper. Next, secure everything in a frame and set out in the sun. No chemicals or harmful substances are used in this process, making it safe, sustainable and climate friendly. 

Workshop participant closing the frame of their anthotype ready to put it in the sun
Anthotypes exposing in the sunshine on a stand

Once in the sun, the sunlight fades the areas of paper not protected. Where the photograph/object blocks the sunlight, we maintain a rich green colour. When we open the frame, we find a photographic print.

However, this print is not fixed, exposure to sunlight will make the print disappear – reminding us to continually try to reduce impact we have on the planet by choosing sustainable ways to live. It is also a reminder of the power and danger of the sun. We each have a responsibility to change our behaviours to reduce the effects of climate change.

This image shows the anthotype exposing in the sun, the paper is still green but you can see the effect of the sunshine starting to bleach the page
Anthotype exposing in the sunshine, you can see the green starting to bleach
This image shows the anthotype with the leaves and flowers still on the page, but with the paper bleached from the effect of the sun
Bleached anthotype with flowers and leaves still on the page
This image shows the leaves and the flowers that have been removed from the anthotype
The leaves and flowers that were used to create the anthotype

Over 50 people took part, across 2 workshops, and the groups created 30 anthotypes. We used leaves, flower petals, and images from the University of Salford Art Collection, and the Planting for the Planet exhibition showcasing the work created by the young people I worked with from Action for Conservation, currently on display at RHS Bridgewater until 27 August 2022.

Anthotype image of woman sat on top of buildings surrounded by leaves
Anthotype by Amelia of original image by Sarah Hardacre
Anthotype image of yound person stood next to some plants
Anthotype by Megan of original image of Angelica by Olivia
Anthotype image of young person crouched on a rain garden surrounded by leaves
Anthotype created by Dan of original image of Tamar by Mariam
Anthotype image of a young man surrounded by leaves
Anthotype created by Steve using original image by Craig Easton
Anthotype image of a woman and buildings surrounded by leaves
Anthotype created by Deb of original image by Sarah Hardacre


The best thing about the event, for me, was the range of people taking part and enjoying the process – aged below 10 to over the age of 70. And the feedback from the participants:  

‘I love it! Definitely abandoning chemicals for now and trying this instead…’                 

‘I really enjoyed my dabble. Have had a session with the Grandkids. A) they read how to do sun pics B) they told me what they needed paper etc C) a very enjoyable wander down the canal collecting wild stuff.  

So thanks, it kept 4 of them ranging from 6-16 occupied all of one day and half of the next with a walk. Result 😍’ 

‘Thanks for this, looks great. Interesting that some light came through the leaves. 
Need to get some spinach and have a go. What sort of paper would you advise using?’ 

‘I enjoyed it.  I am definitely going to try out some stuff myself at home’ 

How to make anthotypes at home

So for any of you who would like to have a go at plant-based photography at home – here’s how to do it:

What you’ll need:

300g of spinach 

A hand blender 

2 x plastic jug 

1 x funnel 

Coffee filter papers 

A sponge brush 

Acid-free watercolour or cartridge paper 

A clip frame 

Some leaves, flowers or petals – or any other object you wish to use 

Or a photographic transparency – you can create your own using digital transfer film and a home inkjet printer 


Step 1: Put the spinach leaves in a large plastic just and blend with a hand blender until you create a smooth liquid 

Step 2: Line the funnel with a coffee filter paper and place on the second jug. Put the spinach liquid in to the second jug and leave to drip (aprox. 30 mins) 

Step 3: Take your filtered spinach liquid and coat your paper. Allow to dry between each coat – either naturally or by carefully using a hairdryer. Coat the paper 3-4 times.  

Step 4: Assemble leaves, petals, photographic transparencies or any other flat objects you choose on the paper. 

Step 5: Secure the paper and the objects in a clip frame and leave out in direct sunlight, ideally outside, but inside a window will also work.  

Step 6: Wait. Depending on how much sun you have the images could develop in a matter of hours, or over a few days. Your image is ready when the uncovered areas of the paper – that you can see, have faded to near white. 

Step 7: Open your frame and reveal your print. 

Note: the print will fade if exposed to direct sunlight. 

Need inspiration?

Before making your own, you can visit the Planting for the Planet exhibition at RHS Bridgewater until August 27th, where you can see the anthotypes created by the young people from Action for Conservation on display alongside a collage of photographs, ‘Our City, Our Nature’ and contributions from communities on taking climate action by greening Greater Manchester. The exhibition demonstrates the importance of plants and nature in creating resilient, healthy and beautiful spaces for people and the planet to coexist.  

Gwen Riley Jones is Socially Engaged Photographer in Residence at the University of Salford Art Collection in partnership with Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool.

Salford Rediscovered was led by the Salford Culture and Place Partnership, the University of Salford, Solid Ground, Salford City Council, Salford Museum and Art Gallery, and RHS Garden Bridgewater. Rediscovering Salford has created fantastic engagement and original commissions with Islington Mill, Paradise Works, START Creative, The Lowry and Walk the Plank. This programme is generously supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, as well as contributions from all the project partners. 

Socially Engaged Photographer in Residence Blog Early 2022 update

Gwen gets to know members of Salford Youth Council. Their conversation begins by discussing ‘What is NOT art?’

Getting to know each other – the importance of listening

In November I started attending meetings of Salford Youth Council (SYC), a youth voice group for anyone aged 11-21 who lives, is educated, or works in Salford. The group meet on a weekly basis, to plan events, work on campaigns, and promote positive stories of young people in Salford. SYC are the home of the Young Mayor and Member of Youth Parliament for Salford. 

When I first joined the group I began by listening, and joining in conversation when appropriate. I was there to get to know the group, its members and to start to understand how the groups works. 

SYC were working on a range of projects, including how to tackle hate crime, child obesity and sexual harassment in schools. They began work on a photo project for Holocaust Memorial Day, they had to take images and write a caption to the prompt – ‘One day…’. The group came up with some brilliant images and captions. I joined in to review the images each week and then the group would go out and take more images. Some people knew how they wanted to caption their images, but sometimes the whole group would collaborate to produce a caption that everyone agreed on. One member of the group is a wordsmith and wrote incredibly poetic captions for other people’s images.  

The images were shared at an event as part of Holocaust Memorial Day remembrance in Salford. You can view the images being read by member of the group, and Salford Young Mayor, Rosie 

Original drawing of the work ‘ART’ by Chinaleigh

Questioning is so important – what is NOT art?

In January I started working directly with members of the group. In the first session we had Amber, Alex, Chinaleigh and Ollie. As a place to start from I asked them ‘What is NOT art?’ which prompted a passionate and wide-ranging discussion. I recorded the conversation and have written up what they said. The group also had a roll of paper to write their responses or draw on if they preferred to contribute that way.  

Chinaleigh said ‘everything in the world could be art in its own way’ 

Ollie said ‘nothing is art – literally nothing. Nothing is not art, but nothing is also art.’ 

Alex said ‘absence of anything is art, if someone can find some kind of meaning to it or feels something then it’s probably art.’ 

We agreed that anything can be art – so I took them back to the original question – what is not art? 

‘I was going to say things that you can’t feel or see, something that doesn’t make you feel something’ 

‘You can put a filing cabinet in an empty room and someone will find a message in it.’ 

‘Is destruction art?’ – ‘I think the general consensus is yeah’ 

Amber said ‘my favourite artist uses the pain he has gone through in life to create his art. I think that’s really cool’. 

I asked can the messages in the making of the art be different to the message the audience gets from the art? 

‘Everyone can bring their own meanings’ 

Chinaleigh said ‘so like a poppy, people could say it’s for rememberace and stuff for the soldiers, but it could also be red for blood’. 

One the walls of the room we were sat in were some medical drawings, so I asked is medicine art? 

‘It can be. Science is a pretty artistic thing. Science is art – you have to draw everything out like lungs and things’ 

‘But when you think about it, everything is art, cos art is such a varied thing’. 

What makes good art or bad art? 

‘That is really subjective’ (x2) 

So, thinking about the University of Salford Art Collection, I asked them, if you were in charge how would you decide which art is good art and which art is bad art? 

‘If you want to reach as many people as possible, the people deciding should be a group with totally different interests and stuff’ 

‘You need a variety of people deciding, unless there is a theme’. 

Creating through conversation

While we were talking, Chinaleigh, who is a cadet and had come straight from training, she was dressed in a green camouflage uniform, drew this brilliant graphic image of the word ‘art’. I love it and have made it into a sticker for her and to share with the groups.  

Image of ART sticker on Gwen’s Socially Engaged Photographer in Residence Journal