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The Art Of The Photogram: The Most Wonderful Camera-Less Photographs

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A photogram is a camera-less technique for image making. An object is placed upon a light sensitive material in the dark. Then everything is exposed to the light. The resulting 1:1 image is a negative shadow (or positive light, if you prefer) that varies in tone dependent on the transparency of the objects placed on the light sensitive paper. Unlike a photograph, a photogram is always the original image. There is no negative, the master from which the photographic print is made (or was before digital photography). So, the photogram becomes a new form of expression steeped in mystery and expectation. 

London’s Atlas Gallery is showing a wonderful collection of Photograms, including Berenice Abbott’s (1898- 1991) avant-garde photograms of wave patterns made at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the 1950s.

…works by Man Ray (1890-1976), Christian Schad (1894-1982) and László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946), who experimented with the medium independently in the 1920s. Schad had begun to create his ‘Schadographs’ by capturing litter and detritus from the streets of Zurich in 1918-19. It is thought that Tristan Tzara, the leader of the Dada movement in Paris saw Schad’s work and showed it to Man Ray who began to make his own ‘Rayographs’. Continuing the potential chain of influence, in 1930 Moholy-Nagy hired György Kepes (1906-2001) as his assistant in his Berlin studio. Kepes, who was later to work at MIT also, experimented further with the genre by combining techniques such as cliché-verre and decalcomania, yielding unpredictable patterns. The results of these experiments by Kepes are included in this exhibition.

 

Erwin Blumenfeld_Untitled, New York, 1953

La lumière déconcertante, 1926, by ELT Mesens.

La lumière déconcertante, 1926, by ELT Mesens.

Untitled (Science), 1958-61, by Berenice Abbott.

Untitled (Science), 1958-61, by Berenice Abbott.

 

Floris Neüsuss_Tellerbild 4, 1968

Floris Neüsuss Tellerbild 4, 1968

Man Ray_ Untitled, 1926

Man Ray Untitled, 1926

Richard Caldicott_Untitled #11 2015

Richard Caldicott Untitled #11 2015

Thomas W Fels Arbor. 15th June 2011 #2

Thomas W Fels Arbor. 15th June 2011 #2

Floris Neüsuss Koperbilder 81, 1968

Floris Neüsuss Koperbilder 81, 1968

Gyorgy Kepes Untitled, 1981

Gyorgy Kepes Untitled, 1981

László Moholy Nagy Photogram Dessau 1925

László Moholy Nagy Photogram Dessau 1925

Werner Bischof Steams 1941

Werner Bischof Steams 1941

  • AlanOne7

    Photograms, neat stuff. Thanks for posting these.