I had the privilege of sitting in on Denis Roussel‘s photo I class for a session yesterday. His class was doing Chemigrams, something Denis hadn’t covered in the alternative processes class I took with him last semester. He caught up with me in the darkroom yesterday when I was adding cyanotype to this print and asked me to sit in and learn about chemigrams.
He did a quick lecture with resources to other artists working with chemigrams and gave us some references of images along with a tutorial. The how-to can be found here on alternativephotography.com (a great resource for anyone working in alt processes.
Here’s a basic rundown of the process, as written by Christina Z. Anderson:
The chemigram process was discovered by Pierre Cordier on November 10, 1956. It is a unique process that uses resists on photographic paper much the same way as wax is used as a resist in batik.
What Cordier discovered in 1956 was that a resist can hold back the chemical effects of developer and fixer on black and white photo paper for a time. Paper put into developer that has been exposed to normal room light for varying periods of time will turn black, except where a resist blocks the chemical reaction. The parts of the paper protected by the resist will continue to change color from extended exposure to room light, of course.
Likewise, paper put into fixer turns white, except where a resist blocks the chemical reaction. The parts of the paper protected by the resist continue to change color from the room light exposure, and suddenly there is the possibility of black, white, and colors in-between on normally monochrome paper.
With a back and forth from developer to fixer or fixer to developer, the resist begins to dissolve, so the next chemical bath either turns slowly exposing paper under the dissolving resist black (developer) or white (fixer) or some color in-between because of the now-lengthening room light exposure. With time this dissolution can be coaxed into creating beautiful, intricate patterns.
The chemigram process is actually very simple, using common household ingredients and common darkroom chemistry. There is no end to experimentation with this nonfigurative, physico-chemical process.
There are some great photos up there. I’ll put the ones I liked best here.
Chemigram by Cynthia Huber, handcoloured
Chemigram by Cynthia Huber, handcoloured
Chemigram by Cynthia Huber: stencils, coconut oil, varnish, sprays on both fixer and developer.
Chemigram by Patrick Rooney done with nail polish and then put through a mordancage solution.
Chemigram by Clare Parsons. “Face” is butter resist and then chemigram is mordancaged.
He also linked us to some work by Heather Oelklaus
These are my two chemigram experiments:
I have to do an assignment on “identity” for printmaking. I’ve been thinking a lot about what that means to me since I started working with found photographs in my alternative photographic processes class last semester. I want to work with old photos of myself as a child, juxtaposed with new photographs of myself now, to talk about how I’ve changed as a person but am still struggling to identify with the body I live in. I’m sure I’ll have more to say after I finish doing my reading for my printmaking class and get some ideas out of that, but I wanted to talk about my ideas for what I might do for my first photo project for photo 4 this semester.
I was thinking about using masks. I worked with masks some last semester when I was making tintypes:
I included the third one because it gives me interesting ideas about how I can incorporate the masks with reflections of myself or my face either in other masks or out of masks to talk about how the mask is a part of my identity or how it hides parts of my identity. Neither of those masks are of my original design and were for costumes. Costuming has been a huge part of my life and really is a part of my identity. I feel strangely more comfortable in costumes being someone else than I do as “myself”. I have trouble identifying with a “self” particularly as it relates to my physical body, but also as it relates to a personal identity. I always have trouble with “tell me one thing about yourself” introductions because I can’t think of anything that’s uniquely me. Maybe that’s normal, but it’s part of the problem.
I decided to look up some other art that people have done as non-standard self portraits. Some of what I found was photographic, some wasn’t.
The Dream Children’ from The Hypnagogia Series by Kalliope Amorphous
Found via this amazing post that talks about Kalliope Amorphus’ work: Kalliope Amorphous Visualizes Identity, Gender And Archetypes
Self Portrait l Identity 2 l by shaikhdanial
The left shows a traditional self portrait, but the right shows it shattered and fragmented, which really speaks to how I feel about my own self identity. This could be done in photography either by digital manipulation or possibly with the use of mirrors angled away from a camera or with the camera behind the subject (me) in some way, supported by a tripod. Ideally, the easiest way to shoot something like this might be with a 4×5 because you can angle the camera down and shift it out of the line of sight of the mirrors. I never got fantastic with tilt/shift, but it might be worth playing with again sometime.
Self Portrait by Nathaniel Wolfe
From the artist:
This mosaic portrait is composed of 3000 images from various angles from the front of my head, and then organized to recreate an image of the back of my head. The 30″ by 30″ portrait pokes fun at visual perception and identity, as we’re “a sum of all our parts.”
Identity Self Portrait 2011
This talks to me about not identifying with the self, with the face, specifically, which is the center of the self for most people, and not something I identify with, on my own. It’s done via long-exposure, which is something I began experimenting with more last semester.
Camouflage Self-Portrait (RED)
Andy Warhol, synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen on canvas, 1986
Using a projector to distort parts of myself is another really interesting idea that I might try exploring. Also painting my face/body with some kind of body paint to change the way it looks. I’ve considered wearing clothing that has additional body parts attached that distort the way my body looks – not necessarily into something I identify with, but into something monsterous or disturbing or abnormal to communicate how I feel about my own body and my distorted sense of self.
This is just a start, a place to brainstorm ideas going forward.
We’re done with pinhole cameras now, so I’m going to be uploading the ten positives and ten negatives that I came out with as finished products and presented for critique.
There were a lot of light leaks in my camera, but I like the feeling of them and the evidence of analogue photography that they leave behind, so I didn’t try to take them out when I made prints, and a lot of them weren’t removed when I cropped down my prints. They’re very small, in the physical range of approximately 4×5 but my camera was crooked and so are a lot of my prints and different ones cropped out to different sizes.
You can also see them all here on tumblr (under my pinhole tag) if you prefer. (they’re bigger there than here.) (I also have higher resolutions, but tumblr resized them down. These are probably big enough for the average internet user anyway.)
(I obviously need a new layout, but I just left a huge white space to keep from having to size-down my images any further and try to keep them from running into the text on the sidebar. Sorry, I don’t really have the time to be messing with layouts right now. Please scroll down. )
01 – negative
01 – positive
02 – negative
Positive 05 run though photoshop with an auto-tone filter. This is closer to how I would have liked the positive to look, but I couldn’t get the contrast right.
Fire Hydrant Negative
Fire Hydrant Positive
This is the actual contact print as developed by hand. The next one I’ll be uploading is run through photoshop with an “auto tone” filter and is probably closer to how I would have liked it to look, but I just couldn’t get it to come out with crisp enough blacks and a high enough contrast.
This positive actually gave me no end of trouble. I got beautiful tones on my test strips, but I couldn’t replicate them when I went to make my print. I don’t know if it’s because I was working on a different enlarger or if I changed a setting and didn’t realize it or something, but eventually I ended up having to develop this on completely different settings than my test strips.
Fire Hydrant Positive (auto-tone)
This is actually a little more washed out than I’d like it to be but I can’t seem to get a happy medium between this one and the other one. I experienced the same difficulties in the darkroom.
James (negative, cropped)
The Apple (negative)
The Apple (positive)
Prison (positive, auto-tone)
At the end of the day. (negative)
At the end of the day. (positive)