How do you take a photo without a camera, you may ask? By taking a photogram. A photogram is the result of a shadow cast onto a light-sensitive surface. The on-paper contrast is dictated by the strength of the cast shadow which depends on the distance the object is from the surface.
The first photograms were invented in the same time as photography was really starting to develop. The first book to be illustrated with photographs was produced in 1843 by Anna Atkins. It contained photograms of leaves and other botanical specimens created using the cyanotype process.
To make my photograms, I bought light sensitive paper and chose some interesting objects I wanted to place onto it. I placed the photograms in a bright place for one and a half hours and immediately took them to the printer for scanning. A photogram has to be stored in a dark place in order for it to not disappear. When light-sensitive paper is exposed to light, it brightens up to a point where it can’t get any brighter and the image is completely lost. The photograms are negatives, so after scanning them I had to reverse their colours.
For the first photogram I used a pair of scissors shaped like a stork. Of course, it is very easy to place a pair of scissors onto a sheet paper, but the outcome is very satisfying. I like the way the light bounced off of the rounded edges, creating a glow. The second photogram was made with a plastic lizard and some leaves. For the third one, I simply scattered a bag of bolts and screws onto the paper. The last one was quite similar to the second, with a dead moth and buttons replacing the lizard and leaves.
I really like the final effect of my photograms. I wouldn’t get this kind of shading if I were to have the light source directly above the paper, so I’m glad I used natural light. It’s a very easy and cheap photography technique that anyone can experiment with.