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Binh Danh
American, 1977 -

Found Portraits Collection: from the Cambodian Killing Fields at Tuol Sleng, 2003
21st Century American Print
Chlorophyll prints on leaves with resin
18 1/8 x 53 1/8 in. (46.1 x 134.9 cm), with frame

Marion Stratton Gould Fund,  2006.7

Not currently on view  

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About the Object

The faces of prisoners murdered in the Cambodian Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge are memorialized in Binh Dahn's series of portraits printed on living leaves. The artist makes his chlorophyll prints by pressing a leaf and a photographic negative together between glass plates and exposing them to sunlight for several months. The natural process of photosynthesis transfers the photographic image to the leaf. After printing, the leaves are suspended and preserved in resin.  

As many as 30,000 prisoners were held captive at the prison between 1975 and 1979.  When the Vietnamese army liberated the prison, 6000 photographs remained to bear witness to the individuals who suffered there.  The original negatives are housed in the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide, located in the former prison.  A catalog of the images can be found at Cornell University.

[Gallery label text, 2009]

Bin Danh creates what he calls "chlorophyll prints" by pressing a living leaf and a photographic negative between glass plates and exposing them to sunlight.  After a period of several months, through the natural process of photosynthesis, the image becomes visible and permanent.  For this particular piece, Danh made negatives from photographs taken of prisoners before they were murdered by the Khmer Rouge during the Vietnam War.  After being 'printed,' the leaves were suspended in resin.  Life, death, and the ways in which we preserve the past are all important considerations in Danh's work.

[Gallery label text]