Cameraless Photography: How to Create Chemigrams

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Discover a whole new world of photographic possibilities and learn how to create positive and negative photographic images without a camera! All you need is light sensitive paper and developer, stop and fixer. Intrigued? Read on to find out more!

Another starting point of the photography course I teach is getting students to understand the difference between positive and negative images and a basic introduction to chemicals, and to do this we create chemigrams. This is a way of capturing positive or negative images straight onto light sensitive paper by using various objects.

What you need:

  • Light sensitive paper
  • Three trays
  • Developer, Stop and Fixer chemicals.
  • No darkroom needed
  • Paper towels / kitchen towels would be handy.

Setting up
As you’re not making an actual replica of a picture it doesn’t matter if your paper gets exposed to light, just be sure not to exposure the whole box. You will need three trays, one for each chemical. Set them up as recommended by the brand for paper development, not film. For ease of reference, label each tray. Okay, you’re ready to go!

How to create positive images
Select your chosen object; usually more absorbent objects work best such as flowers, leaves and plants. You can also create hand prints if you’re sure to wash your hand extremely well straight after. Dip your object into the developer. This is just a dip, shake off any excess liquid. Carefully place onto your light sensitive paper cover with a paper towel. Evenly press down and hold for 40-60 seconds.

Remove, and magic! A black detailed print of your chosen object! Now to keep it there place the paper into the stop for 30 seconds then remove and place into the fixer for 5-10 minutes with regular agitation. Wash off in another clean water tray of a sink for 5 minutes to rid it of any chemicals. Complete!

How to create negative images
The process is the same as above only the order of the chemicals changes. This time you want to fix your chosen object so it remains white. Dip your object into the developer first and repeat as above. Place into the developer to give you the black background. This takes roughly 2 minutes or until you are happy with the darkness. Continue to stop and fix then wash as above! Compete!

Once you have mastered this and you’re ready to move onto the next level, Google chemigrams and check out the chemigram paintings. By using different dilutions it is possibly to actually paint an image. This is a great way to get some fantastic prints for beginners and experts alike. Try it and link your results for me to see!

written by crevans27 on 2012-05-18 in #gear #tipster

3 Comments

  1. asharnanae
    asharnanae ·

    I do a similar process with my students, called photo Batik, where you use Vaseline and a print resist, works a treat too.

  2. purplecurtains
    purplecurtains ·

    I have managed to complete a positive image but am struggling to do a negative image, it all turns black, where do you think I am going wrong

  3. bsdunek
    bsdunek ·

    I believe there is a typo in the paragraph on how to create the negative image. You need to dip the object in FIXER first. That way the places it touches will stay white instead of developing to black. So far I have just done chemigrams with resist of various types. Cooking oil, butter, toothpaste, etc. This method will be next and maybe I can combine them.
    See my work at brucecsdunekphotography.zenfolio.com/

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