Adventures in Photography Class – Ep. 1: Photograms

Happy hump day. Sorry for missing Monochrome Monday. My personal sanity has been tested like no other since Saturday, and aside from going to class, I have taken to doing as little as is humanly possible for a typically busy college student in order to fight off the impending stress. But never fear! I have a fun little post for you (a post that also just so happens to be my 150th post!). As I’ve mentioned before, I’m taking a photography course this semester. Why? Well, it’s the last semester of my undergrad career, and I believe that I should spend it taking classes I’m actually interested in. And given my love for photography, why not take a course to boost my technique? In doing so, I figured that it would be cool to post some of the things I’ve been learning in class over the course of the semester, kind of like a subset of my Things I’ve Learned segment. So today, I’m going to start with the first installment which features a very basic technique we learned early on in class: the photogram.

You might be asking: what the heck is a photogram? Not going to lie, I had no clue what it was either until about 3 weeks ago. According to the great and powerful Wikipedia, a photogram is “a photographic image made without a camera by placing objects directly onto the surface of a light-sensitive material such as photographic paper and then exposing it to light.” The cool thing about photograms is that there are so many cool artistic things you can do with them. I’ll just leave some of these here so you can see for yourself.

For class, our first encounter with working in a dark room (one of my favorite places) was with photograms. We brought in objects that we thought would leave cool images on the paper when developed. I used feathers:

Dark Room Photogram

Oh, the joys of technology, allowing me to scan this so I could upload it for you all to see. (And I just noticed that there was some dirt on the scanner, so just ignore that giant piece of whatever on the top right of the photo.) Anyway. There are two different feathers that produced two different images. The one on the left was a blue and brown feather. Because of these colors, light could penetrate the fibers and left that image. However, the feather on the right was black meaning that light couldn’t penetrate it at all and, instead, left the area completely white. If the feather had been white, the light would’ve gone straight through it and would have left the area black. Kind of cool, huh?

Digital Photograms

Photograms can also be done digitally with the help of a scanner and Photoshop (or any other photo editing/manipulation software). Though you can get super creative with digital photograms like the ones linked here, I kept mine extremely simple just so I could understand how it was done:

Digital Photogram

This is the top of a little wish box my best friend gave me in high school. There’s a number of things I could have done with this like isolate colors or even change them or make the doodles glow. But I left it alone because I thought it was cute and fun as is. Some of the more interesting ones my classmates did included zooming in on a pile of yarn to make it look like a brain and adding some color to the middle to make it appear as if it were glowing from the inside out as well as one that looked like it was bacteria under a microscope.

The cool thing about photograms is that any object can be used to make something different. There are photographers/artists out there who make a living off of making creative photograms. Typically when one thinks of photography, this is not the first thing you think of, but it’s way cool that this, too, is an art form that takes a lot of composition and patience. I mean, even with basic dark room photograms, you can dodge and burn your photograms with your hands and expose more areas for longer periods of time than others. Anything goes with a photogram.

In the next installment, you’ll get to see the result of one of my favorite assignments thus far (considering how it is only the 3rd out of the 4 we’ve been assigned). But until then, I bid you all adieu!


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