The Photogram: A Magical Concept
Branded by various artists over the years, the exploration of the photogram can be traced back to the 1700s with the discovery of light-sensitive materials.
The technique of making a photograph without the use of a camera is as old as photography itself. Commonly referred to as a photogram, an image is constructed in real time by placing objects directly onto the surface of a photosensitive paper and exposing it to light. Although photograms may seem similar in their initial appearance to photographs — as are the chemical processes that make them happen — their final outcome is quite the opposite, becoming overlapped slices of light and form to reveal surprising and, often, enigmatic results.
Branded by various artists over the years, the exploration of the photogram can be traced back to the 1700s with the discovery of light-sensitive materials. However, it would take until the following century to produce a detailed photogram and invent a formula to stabilise, or “fix,” an image for permanency. A pioneer who was successful in this field was Henry Fox Talbot. The British inventor made tracings of his botanical specimens by exposing chemically-treated paper to sunlight, calling his process photogenic drawings. But as photographic technology aspired to more advanced levels, the photogram was almost entirely replaced by the supposedly more interesting “camera photography.”
Decades later, thanks to the avant-garde movements of the early 20th century, the photogram veered in a radically different direction. American artist, Man Ray, almost single-handedly popularised the technique, calling his creations rayographs. Other influential artists from this period include Marta Hoepffner, Lotte Jacobi, Christian Schad and László Moholy-Nagy.
A sampling of my photograms, or stephographs, as I refer to them, are shown here.