SPARK #15: Photos from Plants

2 September 2023

SPARK #15 is a fifteenth in person meeting for Greater Manchester/North West-based artists who want to intervene in the trajectory towards climate breakdown, and is an opportunity to meet other artists and to share information and ideas.

Meet at 9am at Oxford Road station for walk
or meet at 10:15 at John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3EH

SPARK #15: Photos from Plants will be hosted by lens-based artists Sara Davies and Helena Lee who will start the session with an optional walk from Oxford Road Station at 9am. We will then make our way to The John Rylands Library where we will be met by Library Imaging Manager Gwen Riley Jones at 10.15am.

Please register on Eventbrite at

For this session we will focus on photography, looking at works in The John Rylands Library’s photographic collection with links to landscape and the environment. We’ll also make our own anthotypes – a type of photographic image created with an emulsion made from photo-sensitive plant parts such as crushed flower petals. The technique was invented by Mary Somerville in 1842, although it has often misattributed to Sir John Herschel.

The walk is optional, although we will be collecting items on the way to use for the anthotype workshop. The session will finish at 12.30 and you are invited to bring a packed lunch if you would like to stay for the Hurter and Driffield RPS lecture with photographer Tony Richards starting at 1pm. Please note, you will have to book a ticket if you want to attend the lecture:

Sara Davies is a PhD candidate and Lecturer at Manchester School of Art. Using a combination of photography, performance and other mark making practices her art practice explores displacement, notions of belonging and our relationship to place. Sara writes both academically and poetically about her practice and she also has a keen interest in Kurbits painting – a decorative folk art painting style from Sweden.

Helena Lee is a Swedish photographic artist who has been living in the UK since 1994. Helena came to the UK to study art and brought her Swedish influences and visual language with her. In her artwork, she always aims to strip things back, removing unnecessary visual information to focus on the essence of an idea or an image. She is also interested in highlighting the beauty that she finds in everyday experiences, be that a city walk or an emerging flower growing in our garden.

Gwen Riley Jones is a socially engaged practitioner and photographer, collaborator, educator based in Greater Manchester. With a professional background working with cultural heritage collections, her personal practice explores themes of identity and environment, through place and belonging. Gwen also works as the Imaging Manager at John Rylands Research Institute and Library, leading imaging activity and development to support research, teaching and public engagement.

SPARK #15 follows on from Castlefield Gallery’s SUSTAIN programme focussed on low carbon artmaking and from our first thirteen SPARK sessions at Manchester Art Gallery, Rogue, The Birley (Preston), Eccles Friends Meeting House, Manchester Museum, AIR Gallery, Paradise Works, Editional Studio, Cadishead and Little Woolden Moss and Gallery Oldham. The SPARK sessions are intended to help seed a new Greater Manchester/North West-based network of artists working low carbon.


Accessibility info:

Image credit: Anthotype, tongs on red beet: Bernd Hutschenreuther,used under a Creative Commons 2.0 license