Camera- less Photography, blog 1

Three weeks ago I started a course called camera-less photography at The Malta School of Arts in Valletta. Camera-less photography is the process of developing an image without the use of a camera. This might sound odd to someone hearing this for the first time, I myself was astounded by the matter.

Over the next month I will be learning how to take: photograms, cyanotypes and chemigrams. I will be using my blog to document what I have learnt, so stay tuned if this interests you.

In the first 3 weeks, we were introduced to the camera-less technique called photograms.


The History of Photograms


Scientific Purposes

Photograms played an important role in documentation as this technique was used for scientific purposes.

The easy timeline below by Les Rudnick names the important people who helped in the development of this technique for documentation and scientific purposes.



Johann Heinrich Schultze
 – silver nitrate image of letters due to sunlight exposure –non permanent image.

William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877)
 – salted paper photograms of botanicals and other objects.
Hippolyte Bayard (1807-1887) – direct positive cyanotype images.
Sir John Herschel (1792-1871) – inventor of cyanotype and discovery of sodium thiosulfate as a way to fix the photographic image.

Anna Atkins (1799-1871) 
– “British Algae: Cyanotype Images”, first book that was illustrated using photography.
Anne Dixon – worked with Anna Atkins on cyanotype photogenic drawings.
Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen (1845-1923) – discovery of X-rays, photogram of human hand.


Artistic Purposes

This process became popular in the European art scene in the aftermath of World War 1.  This caused a chain reaction where artists influenced each other, further adding their own experimentation to this technique.  Christian Shad a German artist in 1917 experimented with this technique and named it Shadographs. This technique was then influenced by the American artist, Man Ray who was living in Paris at the time. He then started to further experiment on this technique which he then called Rayographs. Lastly, a year later, László Moholy-Nag a Hungarian artist was inspired by a portfolio he saw containing Rayographs. Moholy-Nag then started to create his own experiments which he named photograms.

How to make a photogram

This process must be done in a darkroom as it is a light sensitive process playing with exposures. To create a photogram one would need to collect opaque objects and place them on light sensitive photo paper in a dark room and then expose it to light. The light sensitive photograph is then placed in photo developer for 2 minutes, in water for another 2 minutes and lastly in paper fixer for 2 minutes.

The photograms are washed under running water for 10 minutes and then dried on a rack.

The beauty of this technique is that the results are always different depending on the opacity of the objects and the amount of light chosen to be let in. One can also create depth by layering things on top of each other. It is important to note that objects in direct contact with the photosensitive paper are the objects that will be affected the most by the reaction. When experimenting with layers it is important to increase the light exposure time as the light would need a longer time to get to the paper.

Important notes

–  Before developing a photogram, a test is always made to see which timing will suit the photogram best.

– Makes sure that the glossy part is facing upright as that is where the light sensitive emulsion will be.

test strip.jpg
Test Strip



Caldwell, C., 2008. Illuminated Negatives. [online] Available at: < [Accessed 18 March2017].

Les Rudnick , 2011. The Photogram- A History. [online] Available at: [Accesed 18 March 2017].


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