Cameraless Photography


Photography without a camera sounds like a contradiction in terms. Nonetheless, since the earliest days of photographic images, practitioners have often foregone the camera, placing objects directly onto light-sensitive surfaces. When such a surface is illuminated by an appropriate light, a trace of the shadows thrown by the object is left on the recording medium. The resulting image is known as a photogram. Photograms share with photographs the claim to be a faithful record, but they deny the viewer access to the cues used to decipher meaning from a conventional photograph. Facial expression, context and much else are replaced by the complex behaviours of light itself, unmediated by a camera. Photograms offer a uniquely photographic vision, not directly available to the human eye. Each photogram is a unique object – there is no negative from which it may be reproduced.

Andrew Chisholm’s work uses colour photographic paper as the light-sensitive surface, exploring the possibilities offered by the medium’s response to coloured light. The watergrams introduce a temporal aspect to the image. The colour of the light source used to make these images changes very rapidly during the exposure. As the water surface changes, it bends the rapidly changing light. The trace of light left on the paper catches the fleeting complexity that dissipates in the blink of an eye. Taking a lead from Cubist painting, the figurative images present a familiar form, but from several points of view. Lights of several hues are used to throw shadows onto photographic paper simultaneously, leaving the corresponding colour traces. Where these versions of the outline overlap, they literally colour each others’ accounts of the person, leaving the viewer to reflect on the nature of photography’s claims to objectivity.

Andrew Chisholm works without a camera, exploring the exciting possibilities offered by the use of colour materials in photogram work. Andrew designs and makes the equipment and processes needed to make these images. He lives and works in a former chapel in South East London and has a BA in photography from the University of Westminster.