photography

Photogram Work in the darkroom at Cleveland Print Room

I wanted to explore something completely different when I began the residency in Cleveland. I am always working with print, which requires a really specific way of thinking about image making. You must think in terms of layers, and keep the process you're using in mind at all times. With the exception of monotype, it's sometimes hard to be spontaneous in printmaking. The chance to work with photography for a while was a chance to refresh things and make something visually different, because I'm literally having to think differently during the process.

Of course, I still wanted to make work relevant to me. I love photography and taking photographs and have never used them in my own practice. So in the beginning of the residency period I did a lot of research and reading on alternative darkroom techniques, and ways in which I could use black and white photography in more abstract and spontaneous ways than I would have otherwise.

Ripple - Silver Gelatin Print

Ripple - Silver Gelatin Print

I had been thinking about the images made by surrealist photographer Man Ray, who popularised photograms, although he referred to them as Rayographs. Here is a little collection of my research images, all Man Ray photograms featuring hands:

These photograms really inspired me, as they were so unique, having a dreamlike, surreal mystery to them. I managed to learn the technique from the wonderful staff at CPR. The process is the same in the darkroom as it would be if you were making prints from a roll of film, just without the film. Essentially, they are camera-less photographs. The print room has great facilities for creating enlargements up to quite a large scale, so I was excited to work on some big photograms using my own paintings as transparencies. 

In my work have used hands as a symbol representing people, emotion, movement. Using the cutout hand shapes is also a callback to silhouette papercut illustration, and shadow puppetry.

A work in progress image from my sketchbook. I laid out the cutout hands in different ways to decide on compositions.

A work in progress image from my sketchbook. I laid out the cutout hands in different ways to decide on compositions.

To make my photograms I began with painting on transparencies, using sumi ink and salt, which I then cut up into shapes. I then brought these to the darkroom, where I arranged them under an enlarger directly on top of photo paper. These objects acted as a stencil for the light from the enlarger, and once exposed to that light, the photogram could be developed as usual.

Cutout hands on photopaper. This one actually ended up as a lumen print.

Cutout hands on photopaper. This one actually ended up as a lumen print.

I then brought these shapes to the darkroom, where I arranged them under an enlarger directly on top of photo paper. These objects acted as a stencil for the light from the enlarger, and once exposed to that light, the photogram could be developed as you would a normal black and white print. Below, you can watch the process of developing one of the photograms at the print room.

katieravenscraig photogram.jpg

I love this process and will be making more.

Check out the full project for more photograms! 

Vermeer, Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window (From the Archives)

This is something I wrote about a few years ago, but I came across it when browsing through the archived blog posts from my old site. I thought it was worth sharing again, so I kept the original post intact, adding more things on at the end. It has been over four years since I wrote this:  I was studying at Duncan of Jordanstone, and still concentrating on painting. How time flies. can't believe it!

April 13, 2010

I have been working on a new painting. It is a portrait of Paul. Derek, my tutor, gave me advice about how to make paintings look more like old masters work. The sitter is to be posed: preferably in a formal stance, or just as a subtle reference to an old master painting that I admire. I have been thinking about making a tribute to Vermeers Girl reading a Letter by an Open Window. I love Richters tribute to it. In fact, there have been several adaptations, but here are my favourites:

Johannes Vermeer,  Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window , 1657

Johannes Vermeer, Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window, 1657

Gerhard Richter,  Lesende , 1994

Gerhard Richter, Lesende, 1994

Tom Hunter,  Woman reading a Possession Order,  1997

Tom Hunter, Woman reading a Possession Order, 1997

I wrote about the two paintings here in my contextual review at uni- mine was about the use of photography in paintings (Hopefully, that is what my dissertation will be about, too).  Anyway, referencing a famous pose such as this, or perhaps even a gesture with the hands, as in Van Eycks Arnolfini portrait, would be a powerful idea to bring forward, I think.

13th October, 2014

I didn't end up writing about the use of photography in paintings for my dissertation: writing that essay was enough for me! I began to change direction after that, and start thinking less about representational painting and more about drawn/printed pattern. Quite a segue!

A few years after writing that essay (which went okay), boooooom published an article featuring all kinds of 'remakes' of famous paintings, in the form of photography. So here are two more. I can't believe the second one is a photograph!

Johann Watzke, Girl reading a letter by an open window,  2011

Wanda Martin, Girl reading a letter by an open window, 2011

The girl reads a secret love letter, as a symbolic basket of tempting fruit spills over on her bed and the window of her home is flung wide open. It has been summarised as "a woman's longing to extend her domestic sphere" beyond the constraints of her home and society. (Vermeer, 1632–1675 (2000), Norbert Schneider)

Do you think that these tributes and remakes are successful? Which ones, and why?