I find this process almost like a form of art therapy. When one is creating one cannot see exactly what one is creating until the paper enters the developing stage. It’s like trying to draw something with an imaginary brush in the air.
This freedom of not being able to see what one is doing allows for fluidity, movement and trust.
My first chemigram- I dribbled some oil onto the paper and then squished it with a glass, Hoping to get a similar effect when one does the same thing using paint. I then got a sponge and dipped it in developer and painted lines going downwards at the bottom of the page. I wanted to go for something simple as the effect of a chemigram is already powerful with little effort. To my surprise, the result resembled a colour field painting by Rothko. I did not intend to have so much black but I was dealing with translucent materials which must have instigated the dark results.
In this example I discovered the beauty of Vaseline. Due to its viscosity and immiscible properties, no developer or fixer interacts with it. This results in parts of the paper being exposed to light without fixing. A purple pink hue results which darkens in the presence of light. I also tried to experiment with varnish but I was too impatient and didn’t allow it to dry completely, allowing the developer to seep through.
In my last experiment, I discovered a way to get pure white in my images, which I had failed to manage before. I used a magic plastic balloon, that when burst it becomes a sticky plastic substance. It prevents the developer from seeping through but then it’s easily removed when fixing it, unlike vaseline. I still incorporated vaseline into this work as I like the introduction of the pink colour.
For some reason, I kept on producing dark compositions. I liked the effect they brought, but wish I could have more control, so that I can balance the whites and the blacks out more. It is important to use materials that can be washed off and do not stain, as that would defeat the purpose of the chemigram. This is the type of technique where one has to produce a large body of experimental work, to understand what works and what doesn’t work for you. From just these 3 separate experiments one can already see an improvement from the first print. Practice makes perfect.
Stay tuned for my next camera-less photography blog on Lumen prints.