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 (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:

5: Opposite.gif

I’m really kind of excited about this assignment because it’s something I’ve never done in photoshop before. It’s actually something I didn’t know you could do in photoshop.

The assignment is to make a 30-frame animation – essentially, some kind of .gif file that moves.

The internet loves gifs. I have so many gifs that I love, I have ones I’ve saved, ones I’ve seen, and friends who are particularly good at leaving topical gifs from their collections in response to blog posts, especially ones when I need cheering up. (Thanks Bunny!)

Previously, when I’ve needed to make a .gif, I’ve used Adobe Imageready – a program I’m not particularly versed in and don’t care for. I don’t like the interface, it’s not intuitive and I’ve never really learned how to use it. So finding out I can make them in a program that I’m comfortable in is really exciting. It also means not having to wait the seeming eternity (subjective time) for imageready to open.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do and I started my process by building a simple .gif in class that was simply a transition between black and white using the tween setting, learning what I could and couldn’t do, what would look best, etc.

So the first thing I did was make a black layer and a white layer in a normal .psd. Then I made an animation frame of white and an animation frame of black, clicked tween and told it I wanted 30 frames of the black fading into white. I set it to “forever” and now this square of white will fade to black over and over again:

I decided that I didn’t like the way the image jerked back to white to repeat the process, so I made another animation frame of white at the end and set a tween between the last black frame and the new white frame, creating a smooth transition from white to black to white again:

It’s a slow, smooth transition, but it’s outside the parameters of the assignment because it’s 60 frames of tween, each tween section getting a set of 30 frames.

So I decided to see what it would look like if I cut that tween down to 30 frames, not thinking entirely clearly at the time that it *still* didn’t fit into the parameters of the assignment because I was running on no sleep and came up with this:

Why doesn’t it fit?

Because it’s one frame of white, 15 frames of tween, 1 frame of black, 15 frames of tween, 1 frame of white. That’s a total of 33 frames. So let’s pull 3 frames out of there and see what that looks like:

Since I have to pull 3 frames out, I had to make a decision which tween set would get 14 frames and which one would get 13 (14 + 13 + 3 = 30). I don’t think it really matters all that much, so we’ll pull one frame from the second side. I could also remove the final frame of white. So we’ll do both and see which one looks better.

removed final frame of white:

So the first thing I noticed is that the number of frames can speed up or slow down an image’s transition. We can do that anyway with the transition time, but it can also make a transition feel jerkier. The first image that actually fits the parameters of the assignment doesn’t transition as cleanly as the one that’s 3 frames over. That last one, however, seems smoother -it doesn’t linger that extra millisecond on the last white frame because the second plain white frame was removed after the tween, since there’s already one at the beginning to loop back to. That wasn’t something I even considered when there wasn’t a frame limitation, but it’s important.

So, technically, I just completed the assignment. I used experimentation, I went through a process, I threw out previous versions and I learned something. Black and white are also opposites. What I didn’t do was create a particularly visually interesting or intellectually challenging piece of art.

So what other kinds of opposites are there?

I considered taking my own pictures or video (and then screencapping out frames) of a sunrise and/or sunset and making that, but I don’t have a tripod, which seems incredibly important to me. I also don’t know what else I could set my camera on to get a good shot. I live in the city and have other assignments that are due that are very time consuming, so I don’t have time to go out and take a cool shot in the mountains, as much as I would love the excuse to go somewhere where I could take a beautiful shot to composite into my .gif. And then there’s the problem of getting up early enough for a sunrise if I wanted one. Haha, I’m more likely to be able to stay up all night and catch the sunrise that way.

So I thought about using appropriated footage.

I thought of something that some of the people I know on the internet through fandoms would enjoy – The Slender Man and the Splendor Man. If you know what that is, it makes sense to talk about making an animation that is several frames of The Slender Man and then a shocking frame of the Splendor Man. Even if you don’t know what these things are, the stark contrast between the two (Splendorman being a parody of Slenderman) would probably have worked for class. I shelved it in case I couldn’t come up with anything.

Marble Hornets Entry 1
The Splendor Man

(And for those of you interested in Marble Hornets now, who weren’t previously familiar, check out their main youtube channel and start with the Introduction. (The order that videos should be watched in is the order that they were released, but there are also communications with another youtube channel totheark – the appropriate order to watch the videos is here – scroll down to the bottom where it says: “suggested viewing order”. Although if that’s the case, you might want to skip the Splendorman video until you’ve done this, because it kind of ruins the horror of Slenderman for some people.)

And then I thought about other opposites and things that interest me and videos on youtube and I thought – asleep and awake are opposites. Maybe I could look around for interesting videos of people waking up. But then I wasn’t liking anything I found.

Then I remembered a Marble Hornets video where Jay is sleeping. It shows him getting ready for bed and then sleeping. Those are opposites – awake and asleep, although maybe not in the order I was originally going for.

So I’ve downloaded the video, screencapped the frames, and now I’m going to try animating them together into 30 frames of asleep and awake. Pretty exciting.


So here’s my finished product, as presented in class.

I promised to share the process I used to screencap the images, so here it is:

  • Download the video from youtube (I have an add on installed for firefox, but you can use a site like keepvid) or use a video you already have.
  • Open the video in KMPlayer (you can download it here if you don’t have it)
  • Once the video opens, pause it and hit ctrl+G. You should get a screen that looks like this:

I’ll explain the fields here:

Capture to: Where you want the files to save to. Click the little folder button and it’ll let you select a directory. You have to have already made the folder location, though, just a heads-up. The Open button after this field will open the destination location if you press it.

Prefix: The file name prefix. For instance, I used “MH19-” for mine, because I was making screencaps for Marble Hornets Entry 19. The dash was used to seperate the prefix name from the numbers that the program will automatically generate that follow the prefix.

Digits: The default is probably 4 like in the screencap. This is the number of digits that will follow your prefix. It’s important based on the number of screencaps you plan to make and the length of your video. For instance, 4 digits can number screencaps from 0001 to 9999.

Image Format: Pretty self explanatory, really. If you have any questions about it, leave me a comment and I’ll address your specific question.

What Number to Capture: Here you have options about what to capture. I think the numbers indicate the number of frames in the video, whereas second probably refers to the time in the video in seconds. I’ve never used anything but “continuously”.

How to Capture: All Frame does exactly what it says it does – captures each frame of the video. I usually select the “In 1min _ times” and set it to a number based on the length of the video and how many frames I want. Some people set it per second and just cap a small area to make fast-moving gifs, but be warned – this will generate a lot of screencaps and if you’re capping a long video, you could be dealing with a lot more than you want and a lot of file space taken up on your computer. I did that once on accident, and capped something long and ended up with 7 gigs of images. Just a warning to be aware of what you’re doing and use common sense when capping per second.

Capture size: You can set a size you want your screencaps to be, but if they’re not in the same ratio as the video, they’ll be distorted. I always use “original size”.

Then click START (not CLOSE), start the video and wait for it to finish!