Photogram – Adam Fuss

dscn73641It is hard to believe that these images were taken without a camera.  In each case the subject was placed on a large sheet of light sensitive paper and exposed to light for a short period of time.  This technique alludes to the early contact printing of Fox Talbot in the 1830’s.   Fox Talbot experimented with placing ferns and vegetation over photosensitive paper.  My wife Frances has some photosensitive fabric paints that work in the same way.  Man Ray utilised this approach to make what he called Ray-o-grams, later known as Photograms.  He would use a standard photo enlarger, and then place objects onto the photo paper rather than project a film negative.  The image would appear black where it was exposed to light, and white where the object cast it’s shadow.  (A negative image) As with real life shadows, the sharpness of the lines and the density of the image are influenced by the proximity of the edge to the paper.  Thus a coin would appear to have a sharp edge, while a ball would appear blurred and soft.   Of course this effect is enhanced with a softer light and reduced with harsh pin point light.

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Originally trained as an advertising photographer, Fuss decided to explore photography without modern photographic technology.  This in part was a reaction to “the mass-production of generic images”. Early experiments with pinhole cameras led him to explore other camera-less photographic techniques such as the photogram. His photographic art has been described as “evocative and enigmatic” and his themes as “an exploration of the mystery, complexity and transience of life”.

Of his work, Fuss has said: “I was consciously trying to make photographs I hadn’t seen before. …I’d probably seen billions of photographs and they were all produced by the same mechanism …photograms let you see what has never been in a camera. Life itself is the image.”

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Adam Fuss’ work was included in the critically acclaimed Shadow Catchers: Camera-less Photography at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London in 2010.

Adam Fuss was born in London in 1961. He lives and works in New York.

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