A photogram is an image on light sensitive paper made without the intermediation of a camera – thus the object is place in front of the photographic paper and then exposed to light. Anna Atkins, a pioneer photographer of the mid 19th century used this technique to make botanical pictures using cyanotype process, giving her work a distinctive blue tint.
She produced a book of her pictures, “Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions” (1853), which is considered to be the first book of photographs ever made and arguably the founding document for photoseries. A copy can be seen here.
Photograms were favoured by modernist artists such as Man Ray and László Moholy-Nagy as they were suitable for abstracting objects and creating constructivist or surreal aesthetic effects. There was a certain irony in using undistorted light to produce a non-realist effect compared to the apparent realism created by distorting light through a camera lens.
One contemporary user of photograms, Garry Fabian Miller, seems closer to the origins of the medium with his series of leaves, for example:
These pictures seem also to acknowledge the analytic framework used by the Düsseldorf School (see week 4) whilst creating a more mystical sensation. The above were from a single Beech tree in November 1988, thus all of the natural progression from early life to death is captured through the changes in colour – yellow symbolising life giving (and art enabling) properties of sunlight itself is at the centre.
My pictures try to capture most (and in some cases all) of this entire progression on one leaf.
Matthew Greenburgh is an artist who focuses on still life work with strong aesthetic and symbolic components.