Definition:A photogram is a photographic image made without a cameraby placing objects directly onto the surface of a photo-sensitive material such as photographic paper and thenexposing it to light. The result is a negative shadowimage varying in tone, depending on the transparency ofthe objects used. Areas of the paper that have received nolight appear white; those exposed through transparent orsemi-transparent objects appear grey. Photograms have come through three phases in history: •Phase 1: To record the shapes sizes of natural objects •Phase 2: As an artistic expression •Phase 3: Contemporary art
Phase 1: To Record The first period of “photogram” exploration was to produce ascientific record of natural objects . Anna Atkins was one of the first involved in this scientificphotographic development. Her work can be seen in these two images British Algae: Cyanotype Impression, 1843 Poppies: Cyanotype Impression, 1850Look closely at the two images; choose one to write about and then discuss it in pairs.Stick the image in your book and make notes on the following•AESTHETICS, TECHNIQUE & FUNCTION•COMPOSITION, DEPTH OF FIELD, TEXTURE & CONTRAST•OPACITY & TRANSPARENCY.
Practical activity: Creating a scientific photogramStep oneChoose your objects wisely - remember to use a combination of opaque and transparent, varythe details and texture. Arrange them well to create maximum interest and show scientificdetail.Step two arrange th objects in a transparent walllet and balance it on a sheet of card, carry it to thedarkroom; collect a sheet of light sensitive paper – at this point you must alllow NO RANDOMWHITE LIGHT NEAR THE PAPERLay the wallet on top of the paper and under the enlarger – WITH THE RED SAFETY SCREENONStep threeExpose the paper for up to 5 seconds – how long depends on the density of the objects. I willgive you a smaller piece of paper to do a test run with, before you get the final LARGE paper.Remember it costs 40p a sheet so do not waste it.Step four.Slide the photopaper out from under the wallet a carefully develop it in the trays in the wet-room. When it is fully washed take it outside and have a look.
Phase 2: Artistic Expression Christian Schad, Man Ray and Lazlo Moholy-Nagy in the Dada, Surrealist and Constructivistperiods of art were very experimental. Artists of these movements and eras enjoyed using newtechnologies. They took the scientific technique and used it to create original works of art –expressions of their own artistic vision. They took a combination of objects and created anarrative (story) or emotion, images of mystery and passionChristian Schad, “Schadograph” 1918 Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, “Self Portrait”, 1926
In the examples Lazlo Maholy-Nagy used his own face, Man Ray used objects belonging to him and Schad was trying to be expressive in the style of the cubists. Look closely at the three images; choose one to write about and then discuss it in pairs. Stick the image in your book and make notes on the following •AESTHETICS, TECHNIQUE & FUNCTION •COMPOSITION, DEPTH OF FIELD, TEXTURE & CONTRAST •OPACITY & TRANSPARENCY Now complete the practical task on the next page.Man Ray, “No Title (comb,knife and needle)” 1922
Photograms stage two; artistic expression 1. generation of ideas;Make a table with two columns. In column A write words that describe yourcharacter, personality and habits or hobbies. In column B note ideas for objects orcompostions that you could use to make an abstract self-portrait2. Planning & experimentation;Make a collection of materials and objects that you could use – keep them in abag or box and bring them to the lesson. Experiment with composition and sketchor photograph the different ideas – choose three to use in the darkroom3. Realisation and final production A;Take the objects into the darkroom, collecting one piece of photopaper at a timecarry out each of your ideas. Be careful and clean with your work, don’t wastetime or materials. Avoid white light at all costs.4. evaluation;When they are dry look at your images – did you achieve the image and effectthat you had planned - if yes why/how, if no – why not/how did it fail?5. Extension workWhen everyone has had a go you can go back into the darkroom and try toimprove your final result.
Summary:You have seen a lot of examples of how photograms have been and are stillbeing used. It is a simple way of recording objects textures and shapes. Justbecause it is simple, doesn’t mean it has to be Dull! Consider the following:• Transparency: Solid objects create a different effect to glass for example• Shape: How about creating your own shapes out of materials to enhance theimage...?• Compositionn: A key factor of any art work. Try to make it visuallyinteresting. Thin about where to lay the objects. Practice this before yourExposure.Suggested materials:Cut card (shapes), tissue paper, newspaper, bubble wrap, glass, flowers,liquid in jars, things in jars, yourself, soil, gravel, transparency sheets withwriting or sketches....the limits are endless!
Phase 3: Contemporary re-discoveryMore recently, photogramists have utilized the photogramas a means of artistic expression to produce a widevariety of designs and surreal imagery.Artist such as Adam Fuss and Susan Derges use the verybasic science to create some complex artist works: Susan Derges takes camera less photography to the limit. She uses nature to create her images. Working with rivers, coasts and sound waves. To the right: “Shoreline 5”, 1998 “River Bovey May 07” 2007Adam Fuss, “Untitled”, 1994. Fuss deals with themes such as Life, death, motion and experiment. experiment.