Photograms II

For some reason, a post from April on Photograms is perpetually the most viewed page on this blog. I can’t imagine why, but who am I to deny the audience what they want? So I thought it useful to do more than just post some images:

“Photogram” is an odd name for the camera-less craft; while a photograph captures light onto a light-sensitive surface, a photogram relies on a shadow to make the image. The paper goes black under exposure, but the objects block the light, casting a shadow onto the paper, and that is the image you see. The places NOT exposed are the photogram. It should probably be called a Sciagram.  Removing the lens from the equation fundamentally changes the projection paradigm. A lens transposes with such fidelity, we still see the apparent depth and other real-world information. In essence, it is a mirror–what you see is transposed to the film plane.

A Photogram does not have an original image to re-present as in photography, it becomes an image once the projection occurs, resulting in a unique shadow made by the variables of the light source and the intervening objects–a material effect of the lucis interruptus.

Some samples:

Susan Derges, Shoreline, 1998

Susan Derges, Shoreline, 1998

In recent years, digital photography has tried its hand at camera-less images, but with a twist. Flatbed scanners capturing three-dimensional objects combines the photographic expectation of verisimilitude with the immediacy of a photogram.

Gordon Coale, Jenny's Moth No. 1 (click for high-resolution)

Gordon Coale, Jenny's Moth No. 1 (click for high-resolution)

Christa Kreeger Bowden, Gesture Study

Christa Kreeger Bowden, Gesture Study

For added complexity and the ultimate in digital photogrammetry, there is the computer work by C.E.B. (Casey) Reas. I met Casey earlier this year and talked to him about “Process 18”, which among his digital work stands apart for its method. (Apologies to Casey if I misrepresent or misremember our conversation; it is probable that I, in part or even in whole, am inventing the back story). After creating a digital image from algorithmic processes, rather than merely print the file, Casey programmed a light on a track to expose pinpoint dots onto photo paper. The image looks 3D, but it is varied exposure on a flat paper, implying depth through grayscale exposure:

C.E.B. Reas, Process 18, 2008

C.E.B. Reas, Process 18, 2008

From extreme complexity to the most minimal approach: my own work, a series of camera-less and object-less photograms, using only light and paper called Topophotograms:

Pablo Garcia, Topophotogram #23, unique silver gelatin print, 2000

Pablo Garcia, Topophotogram #23, unique silver gelatin print, 2000

Pablo Garcia, Topophotogram #23 (detail), 2000

Pablo Garcia, Topophotogram #23 (detail), 2000

The process:

Topophotogram process: Light-sensitive paper is crinkled under a light source, creating difference in exposure based on glancing light versus direct exposure. Development is uneven, as the developer is poured into the tray, submerging the valleys but not the peaks. Flattening the image reveals the 3D topography of the original.

Topophotogram process: Light-sensitive paper is crinkled under a light source, creating difference in exposure based on glancing light versus direct exposure. Development is uneven, as the developer is poured into the tray, submerging the valleys but not the peaks. Flattening the image reveals the 3D topography of the original.

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