Branded by various artists over the years, the exploration of the photogram began in the 1830s by a group of dedicated practitioners who sought to establish a scientific record of natural objects.
The technique of creating a photographic image without the use of a camera is as old as photography itself. Commonly referred to as a photogram (or cameraless photography), it represents a unique art form that involves the placement of objects onto a photosensitive substrate with the action of light. Although photograms may seem similar in their initial purpose to photographs — as are the chemicals that surround the process — their final outcome is quite the opposite. Think of it this way: similar to how a painter begins with a blank canvas, the approach to a photogram is like photographing an idea. It’s only when the final brush stroke is applied that the painting becomes a visual invention. This concept applies to photograms. They too reveal what has never really existed.
Branded by various artists over the years, the exploration of the photogram began in the 1830s by a group of dedicated practitioners who sought to establish a scientific record of natural objects. As an example, renowned British inventor and printmaker, Henry Fox Talbot, used this discovery to make tracings of his botanical specimens by exposing his 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 seemingly 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. It was Moholy-Nagy who is believed to have coined the term photogram, but who also gained recognition for his luminogram artworks; a variation of the photogram whereby imagery is shaped only with light.
A sampling of my photograms, or stephographs, as I refer to them, are shown here. As I've discovered, the process requires a great deal of patience, often yielding surprising results. Possibilities are unlimited. As examples, one of my earliest images, Fibre Optics, was achieved almost entirely with a child's toy light, and I occasionally integrate film exposures to elevate the photomontage effect.