Getting Creative With Chemigrams

I recently attended another workshop at Illuminate Studio in Suffolk once again, but this time, the workshop shifted its focus away from traditional photography and delved into the realm of chemigrams. As someone with a passion for photography and a desire to explore new techniques, I was eager to dive into this form of experimental photography. 

Chemigrams were invented by the Belgian artist Pierre Cordier in 1956. Pierre was a photographer and experimental artist who was interested in pushing the boundaries of traditional photography. He developed the technique of chemigrams as a way to create images that were entirely hand-made, without the use of a camera or lens. Cordier’s innovative approach to photography quickly gained recognition, and his work continues to inspire artists and photographers to this day. Chemigrams offer a unique and creative approach to creating images, allowing for an unpredictable and artistic outcome. As soon as I saw Mikaela advertise the workshop, I was excited to hop on board and learn more about this technique, along with having the chance to try my hand at creating my own chemigrams.

Mikaela started the workshop by introducing us to the basics, starting with the three essential components of the process: developer, fix, and stop. We learned about the role each of these chemicals played in exposing and fixing the image onto the light-sensitive paper, and started creating our chemigrams by just applying developer and fix, either by dipping the paper into the trays or applying via a brush.

Chemigram Untitled 2
Chemigram Untitled 1

Once we had a grasp of the initial process, we moved on to the most exciting part of the workshop: resists. This was where things got really fun! 

Resists refer to materials that are used to block the exposure of certain areas of the light-sensitive paper to light. By applying resists, you are able to control the exposure of the paper, creating designs and patterns that would not be possible with straight chemical manipulation. Resists can be applied in various ways, such as brushing, dripping, or printing, and can include substances like wax, oil, varnish, or even hummus. Using resists can create a wide range of effects and shapes, adding another layer of creativity to the process.

We experimented with different resists, such as wax and oil. This was an exciting experience and I couldn’t wait to see the final results of our efforts.

Overall, creating chemigrams is a fairly straightforward process that utilises easily accessible household ingredients and familiar darkroom chemistry. The limitless possibilities for experimentation with this nonrepresentational, physical-chemical process make it a highly engaging and exciting medium, and the whole process allows for a high degree of creativity and unpredictability, making each chemigram truly one-of-a-kind.

Below are a few examples of what I managed to produce in the workshop using various resists:

Chemigram Untitled 3
Chemigram Untitled 5
Chemigram Untitled 6
Chemigram Untitled 7
Chemigram Untitled 4
Chemigram Untitled 8

As a newcomer to chemigrams, I was pleasantly surprised by the results of my efforts. This sparked many new ideas and considerations for resists and compositions, and I am keen to explore more. 

A big thank you to Mikaela at Illuminate for hosting the workshop and capturing my experiences in the studio.

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