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Photogram projects by Lloyd Godman - photogram artists

Discovery of the PHOTOGRAM

The photogram is as old as photography itself, perhaps older.

On object laid on a grass lawn will leave a photosensitive image after a few days and this is no different to the images made by photograms. I have used this method to make photosynthetic images on the leaves of Bromeliad plants. Archimedes 287? bc 212 first noted aspects of the pigmentation change in plant tissue due to exposure to sunlight and since then photosynthesis has been central to much speculative and scientific investigation.

While not a recommended method of making images, sun burn marks on our bodies are similar.

When photography as we know it was invented, (1839 was the official date) many of the first inventors used objects like the leaves of plants and fine lace laid on the photosensitized material to form their images. These first photo-emulsions were very slow and needed great amounts of light to form an image; they might have to be exposed to sunlight for 10mins or more. Fox Talbot, and Hippolite Bayard both used this technique (photograms) in their experiments. Later in the early 1840s, Anna Atkins used this technique to produce a wonderful series of botanical works that were to form the basis for the first photographic book through a contact process called the cyanotype.

The following is an extract from Fox Talbot's "Pencil of Nature".

Fox Talbot Cir 1830s

Hitherto we have presented to the reader the representations of distant objects, obtained by the use of a Camera Obscura. But the present plate represents an object of this natural size. And this is effected by quite a different and much simpler process, as follows.

A leaf of a plant, or any similar object which is thin and delicate, is laid flat upon a sheet of prepared paper which is moderately sensitive. It is then covered with a glass, which is pressed down tight upon it by means of screws.

This is done, it is placed in the sunshine for a few minutes, until the exposed parts of the paper have turned dark brown or nearly black. It is then removed into a shady place, and when the leaf is taken up, it is found to have left its impression picture on the paper. This image is of a pale brown tint if the leaf is semitransparent, or it is quite white if the leaf is opaque.

The leaves of plants thus represented in white upon a dark background, make very pleasing pictures, and I shall probably introduce a few specimens of them in the sequel to this work ; but the present plate shows one pictured in the contrary manner, viz. dark upon a white ground; or, speaking in the language of photography, it is a positive and not a negative image of it. The change is accomplished by simply repeating the first process. For, that process, as above described, gives a white image on a darkened sheet of paper ; this sheet is then taken and washed with a fixing liquid to destroy the sensibility of the paper and fix the image on it.

This done, the paper is dried, and then it is laid upon a second sheet of sensitive paper, being pressed into close contact with it, and placed in the sunshine : this second process is evidently only a repetition of the first. When finished, the second paper is found to have received an image of a contrary kind to the first ; the ground being white and the image upon it dark.


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