When early photographer William Henry Fox Talbot published Pencil of Nature in 1844, he announced to his readers that the photographs in the text "are impressed by the agency of Light alone, without any aid whatever from the artist's pencil. They are sun-pictures themselves..." Talbot's earliest photographic experiments were with cameraless images. He later invented the first negative-to-positive photographic process, which meant photographs could be reproduced.
Returning to photography's refulgent past, Amy Giese creates cameraless images in this tradition begun by Talbot. But to say that Giese relies only on the "agency of Light alone" does not fully explain her complex process. She creates her mysterious earth-toned images by recording both light and shadow at night onto paper that is coated with silver gelatin. The abstract shapes and patterns in her photographs or "skiagrams" as she calls them, are created by the shadows cast when light passing through windows, around objects, and into the spaces of her house. In the darkroom, Giese develops the photographs and chemically alters the silver giving the prints their various hues. In this manner, Giese combines early photographic processes with more recent chemical processes to create 21st century abstract photographs. Moving from sight to sound, Giese has experiemented with translating the huges in her photographs into notes to create musical compositions to create multisensory installation works that Talbot could have only imagined.
- Francine Weiss
ski*a*gram n. [GK skia "shadow" + -gram from GK - gramma, from comb. form of gramma something written or drawn]
Captured light, both its absence and excess is arrested on paper. Shadows are stilled, seized, lost. There is no camera. No lens. No aperture. The silver gelatin skiagrams are created from a direct recording of the shadow patterns in a room at night using only the available light. Then the actual space and light of the darkroom is merged with the recordings of shadows. Through a chemical alteration of the silver, refracted light gains color and the light in the darkroom alters the patterns etched in the paper. The unique pieces are created with the idea of translating a familiar space into a parallel version of itself. It is about experiencing that space in a new way, noticing details, the speed at which time passes, the impression of something fleeting. The photographic paper is an inscription of the interplay between the interior and the exterior, the private and the public, a factual understanding and the pull of memory.
My ongoing project, Concealed at first at last I appear began out of frustration, out of my desire for analogue photography to remain relevant in contemporary art and for it to engage in the dialogue surrounding the state of the photography in the rapidly expanding digital culture. These are the newest images in the series, and the layering of the chemigrams with the skaigrams allows me to try and answer some of my questions. What makes this medium unique? Where are its boundaries? What are our collective expectations of a photograph? By blurring the line between photography and painting, by revealing the actual metal of the silver in the paper, by relying on the most fundamental element of this medium, light, without the aid of a lens, I'm attempting to explore how an image can address these ideas.
I frequently look back to help me decide how to move forward. Reading about the earliest inventors of photography, how they tried to make sense of the science and the beauty of what they discovered, guides this work. That, and the desire to understand the space I inhabit. All of these studies are of my own home, pulling details and moments out of the slip of time to be analyzed, recorded, remembered.