EXPLORING EXPERIMENTAL PHOTOGRAPHY
Artists grasp freedom of expression with the help of Experimental Photography. Going further than just capturing a moment in time, Experimental Photography techniques allow you to personalise your art, whether by combining various art mediums when shooting or adding your own touch afterwards. There are many different sub-types of Experimental Photography. Some were introduced in the early 20th century and have bloomed ever since, defined by the alternative process or techniques used to create eccentric artworks. Here are some of the most popular genres of Experimental Photography.
As the most commonly used technique, Photomontages combine splices of different Photographs into one new image. Before the age of computers, artists used scissors and glue to stitch together their artworks. Nowadays, with the help of digital editing tools, this process is much simpler, making it easy for anyone to express themselves. Photomontages are also known as “Photocollages”, which includes different elements beyond Photographs such as typography or brush strokes.
Photomontage was born after World War I, when artists wanted to protest against militarism by pasting together images or words cut from magazines or newspapers to express dissatisfaction with political and cultural issues. Photomontages today still remain a popular medium for showcasing opinions, as artists have limitless possibilities choosing this genre to convey their messages.
Artwork by Larisa Murariu (2020)
Also known as cameraless Photography, Photograms are Photographic images made by exposing objects placed on light-sensitive materials to light. The results of Photograms are x-ray like negative shadows of objects. The dark silhouettes show different contrast depending on the transparency of the object, the amount of light and exposure time. The concept dates back to 1725, when Johann Heinrich Schulze showcased the Photographic effect in silver salts.
Photograms are the first Photographic negatives, discovered in the 19th century when William Henry Fox Talbot invented salted paper and calotype processes. Talbot often captured images of plants by laying them onto papers with coatings of light-sensitive silver chloride, and leaving them out in the sun to darken. Artists like Man Ray put their own spin on Photograms, creating “Rayographs”, portraying Dadaism values of rebellion. However, many Photographers today find this process frustrating as it is time-consuming and restrictive.
Untitled Rayograph by Man Ray (1922)
Gum printing is a process in the darkroom where light-sensitive dichromates are used to add colours one by one, giving the artist freedom to manipulate colors in the Photos. This often creates a paint-like effect, making the Photos seem unreal or with unusual colours. Artists can also experiment with different coatings, negatives or exposures to develop Photos to their liking.
Two-Color Gum Bichromate Print on Paper by Betty Hahn (1968)
Also referred to as Serigraphy or Silk Screen Printing, it is the process of pressing ink through a mesh screen to create printed images. Screen-printing is very versatile, allowing users to work with different types of ink (gloss ink, nylobond, shimmer ink) on various surfaces, making it accessible to many design aspects. Balloons, pinball machines, product labels, display signs are examples of screen-printing in our everyday lives that you might not notice. Screen printing appeared in China during the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279 AD), then made its way to neighboring Asian countries, and is still being used today. Andy Warhol brought screen-printing into fame with his famous work Marilyn Diptych (1962).
Marilyn Diptych by Andy Warhol (1962)
This is a Photographic process involving the production of a cyan-blue print. This uses two types of chemicals: ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide. Initially, the process was introduced by astronomer Sir John Herschel in 1842 to produce notes and diagrams, but later adopted by Image Makers such as Christian Marclay, Marco Breuer or Kate Cordsen.
In a Cyanotype, different effects are achieved by using certain techniques to alter the outcome. Artists use bleach, lemon juice, vinegar or even oolong tea, cat urine or different chemicals to alter the final colours of a Cyanotype.
Cyano Artwork by Wu Chi-Tsung
Playing with the settings of the camera also set a great experimental mood. Motion blur, light painting or double exposures are a few great ways to explore the camera’s capabilities. Instead of editing the Photographs by using digital software, you can try a wide range of shooting techniques to add a little magic to your Photos.
Motion blur is the product of long exposure or rapid movement, resulting in streaks of moving lights or objects. This effect can be captured by panning the camera to create a blurred streak, making objects appear to be in movement.
Light painting, with a similar concept to motion blur, is capturing an image with long exposure while moving a source of light. This creates “live paintings”, using the light as a brush. Pablo Picasso himself produced a series of “light drawings” in 1949.
Double exposure is simply layering two exposures into one image. Double exposures were done in analog cameras by exposing the film to a different image, creating a layered effect. With digital Photographs, this can be achieved through processing tools such as Photoshop, changing the opacity of Photos and layering them to create the effect.
There are so many ways to experiment with Photography and art, and we are witnessing a shift to Experimental Photography – a new era of artistic change. Anyone could be an artist, an experimentalist, an influencer. We hope to see more Image-makers emerge, blooming with potential, and join the movement to drive this new narrative of Experimental Photography.
Sunflowers by Ryan Blackwell & Nastassia Winge
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