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Richmond's ancient fishing community reflected in ancient way

The exhibition is on display at Lipont Place until April 30
lumen print
Phyllis Schwartz’s lumen prints are photographs created without a camera. Edward Peck photo

An exhibition is taking place at Lipont Place where plants from Finn Slough, a tiny Fraser River fishing community in South Richmond, are shown using an ancient photographic method.

Formulation of Time – Photography by Phyllis Schwartz, Edward Peck, Desirée Patterson and Sand Wan is on display until April 30 at the gallery near Aberdeen Centre, using the “symbolic meaning of plants’ life cycles” as the central theme.

Among the photographs are Schwartz’s lumen print works, an early photographic process developed in the 19th century that depends on UV rays from the sunlight to create photographic-like images of organic objects.

“It’s photography that’s made without cameras or lenses,” explained Schwartz, a Vancouver-based artist, to the Richmond News.

“If you go outside for a sun tan or put a leaf on your body, the sun will make a shape of the leaf. It’s the same idea. I put material on paper that captures the shape of the material.

“In addition, it’s like an X-Ray because it captures not just the shape, but the textures and layers inside the plant material.”

Among the 20 lumen prints Schwartz is going to present at the exhibition, eight are from materials she gathered at Finn Slough, a Richmond community with around 30 residents who live in wooden houses, both floating and built on stilts, along the Fraser River bank.

“My husband (Edward Peck) is a photographer. He found Finn Slough and said, ‘oh you have to come to see this.” I started to realize that it’s a very ancient village that…has a very spectacular history,” said Schwartz.

She later discovered there are ancient plants in the village, such as the horsetail and ginkgo from the age of the dinosaurs, and they create very interesting shapes on the paper.

“I’m interested in ancient plants, because they survived...our culture has a very poor attitude about people who get old, or things that get old, but things that are old are treasures.”

Although nowadays people can just take photos with their smartphones, Schwartz believes that lumen print is a great way to reflect on the experience and the moment.

“When I look at the clouds and trees, I can see things in the shadows, in the reflection. I’d like to invite the viewers to see what I saw, and to make a story with me,” she said.

“And when we meet people, we might meet them on the surface level, but when we talk to them longer, we get something deeper. I see that lumen print offers viewers a chance to look again, or to look more deeply into what they see,” she said.

“They might start to see that’s a ginkgo leaf, but it might bring up a memory of ginkgo, or a shape like a face, or a story.”

Meanwhile, artists Edward Peck, Desirée Patterson and Sand Wan will showcase their photography works, including some also taken at Finn Slough, in The Formulation of Time exhibition.