Q&A with Visiting Artist/Scholar Binh Danh

Binh Danh, inventor of chlorophyll photograph printing, shares his thoughts on process and memory.

Binh Danh, a practicing photographer and a professor, is best known for his images using a photographic technique dubbed chlorophyll printing process. Pioneered by Danh, the process involves embedding images in leaves through the action of photosynthesis. In a review of his work, the New York Times says “his pieces hint at the impermanence of ideas like identity, belonging, family, and history.”

Danh’s work has explored the history of the war in Vietnam, his home country. His work asks the viewer to consider the tragedy of war and being lost. As he produces images of soldiers using his chlorophyll process, he evokes the “memory of the jungle and the landscape of conflict."

His current work explores photography’s continued relationship to memory and landscape with subject matters ranging from the American Civil War to the National Parks. In 2017, Danh participated in the MFA in Photography and Integrated Media's acclaimed visiting artist/scholar program, during which he worked with MFA students to move their art forward and shared his unique experiences and expertise. In his Q&A below, he talks about the importance of process and his perspective on the history of photography.

Q: What has your experience been working with the Lesley students in the Photography and Integrated Media program?

A: It’s been fabulous. The students are amazing. I love to see their work progress from the first time I meet them and how dramatically it changes during the semester. I feel like the students are on fire. They make progress in their work in a short amount of time and their commitment to their own studio practice is mind-blowing. I am always nervous about critiques but the students always surprise me with their work. They're always producing new work and new ideas that are a part of it. The commitment they put into their own practice has been amazing.

"To photograph is to remember - photography allows us to remember."
Binh Danh, Visiting Artist / Scholar, MFA in Photography & Integrated Media

Q: How does your use of material and alternative process influence how you approach art-making?

You always have to commit to your material because you never know where it’s going to take you. I’ve moved from one process to another over the years but now I’ve ended up combining two different processes. I combined photo-grams of botanical specimens with the chlorophyll printing process.

Now I want to make new discoveries in the daguerreotype process because it is the oldest form of photography. Well, at least the most practical form that’s lasted from the 19th century. There’s more there that we can use in a 21st century way. When people see a daguerreotype they don’t know what they're looking at because the process is so old. They’re just unfamiliar with the type of photography and it’s not something they have encountered. In that way, viewers are transported. They see daguerreotype and imagine it to be a weird object, which is the same thing people thought of daguerreotype 175 years ago.

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More About the MFA Visiting Artist/Scholar Program

The Visiting Artist/Scholar program is an integral part of Lesley University's MFA in Photography and Integrated Media. Our visiting artist/scholars expose students to the rigors of a professional practice and work with students to facilitate their artistic development.

The goal of our visiting artists/scholars is to help our students move their art forward. Every visiting artist/scholar meets with all of our students in class and in one-on-one mentoring sessions. They also participate in critiques and juries and act as resources in support of the core faculty.