Photograms

What is a Photogram?

A photogram is a image made without using a camera. By putting objects onto a piece of light sensitive paper, you can create ‘permanent shadows’.

Depending on the transparency of the objects you use (and therefore how much it blocks the light) it will leave your paper white if it blocks all of the light, and you will end up with black where the light has totally engulfed the paper, resembling an X-ray. Some of the first photograms were created by William Henry Fox Talbot, using a slightly different earlier process such as cyanotypes. Cyanotypes where originally used for architectural purposes but later became known as ‘photographic illustrations’.

Creating and developing a photogram

When creating a photogram it is integral you are in a darkroom as you will be working with light sensitive materials.

Once you have arranged your desired objects onto your piece of light sensitive paper, expose your paper to a light source. Typically, depending on the settings of your enlarger i have found through trial and error it takes on average 15 seconds to fully expose your paper, however this may vary.

To develop your paper you have to process it in four different liquids.

  1. Developer- Converts the image to macroscopic particles of metallic silver. Usually leave for 2-4 minutes.
  2. Stop- A diluted solution of citric or acetic acid which stops the action of the developer. Usually leave for 30 secs-1 min.
  3. Fix- This makes the image permanent and light resistant by dissolving remaining silver halide. Usually leave for 4-6 minutes.
  4. Wash- Finally ‘wash’ the image in clean water to remove any residue from the other chemicals. If left unwashed the chemicals may corrode the image. Usually leave for 4-6 minutes.
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