chemigrams & luminograms, chemistry & light


chemigram by Polly Marriner

Pierre Cordier, who invented the chemigram in 1958, would argue that it’s not photography at all, in that though it uses photographic materials, it’s painting with chemicals not painting with light. Most artists I can find working with chemigrams today, however, combine Cordier’s techniques with methods all their own, and clearly use light as part of their process. In my hunt for interesting work in this area, my preference is very much on the side of light–Sarachek and Marriner in particular–rather than in chemistry alone.

The small amounts of experimentation I’ve done have combined sunprinting photograms, and then adding chemigram work to the mix before fixing.

  • Norman Sarachek makes some of the loveliest chemigrams, mostly inspired by Chinese and Japanese ink painting. These really bring out the sense that chemigrams fall halfway between photography and painting.
  • Polli Marriner, from New Zealand, makes lush, landscape-ish chemigrams which look poured rather than painted. You can see a few her pieces elsewhere, at much larger sizes.
  • Four abstract chemigrams by Francoise AndrĂ© that seem to hit a halfway point between the two ends of chemigrams.
  • And Michael C. Howell‘s chemigrams feel much closer to painting than photography or printmaking. I wonder if this comes from the way he works more closely along the lines of Cordier’s methods of resists. (a few more here)
  • Cheryl van Hooven‘s light drawings should probably be classified as luminograms, but look closer to a certain type of chemigram.
  • Luke Kurtis has a couple of pieces on Flickr in the same vein–dragons and straw drippings–that look very much like chemigrams.
  • Some of Catherine Doran’s small set of delicate, pretty photograms also appear to be chemigrams.


Intruder, by Stefan Engstrom

and, purely on the side of light:

  • Stefan Engstrom makes beautiful, ethereal monochrome luminograms using refraction patterns, some of which are printed as cyanotypes.
  • Cally Iden makes abstract colour photograms with light painting, often layering them up in montages. And, bonus: she has some pinhole work on her site too.
  • Kristian Thacker has a lovely range of Polaroid photograms and luminograms on Flickr

and still more photograms to come tomorrow…

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