ARCHIVE – Photograms

I fell in love with film when I was in high school. I was lucky enough to be taught in the darkroom, reciting aperture and shutter speeds as a class for hours and fumbling around in the dark trying to find the test strip I just dropped. It was a place where my passion for art grew, as it was where I encountered Man Ray, which led to Dada and Surrealism and the whole world of art, which lead to me taking a major in art history at uni. For my project on Man Ray I had to create some work inspired by his style, so I chose photograms.

A photogram was the first thing we made in my photography class. Our teacher led us into the darkroom, paired us up around the enlargers and told us to take whatever we had in our pockets out and to put it on the sheet of paper and expose it. Everyone had their own photogram on day 1. So when I saw Man Ray’s ‘rayographs’ I saw how diverse the method could be, with interesting and surreal results awaiting me.

I have to admit, I didn’t push it too far and as a fifteen year old girl I only had access to certain items – jewellery, magazines, old toys. But at the time I was pretty pleased with the results, and so was my teacher. At the end of my high school life they were knocking out the darkroom to make a second digital studio, and my heart broke. I was the only one who was actually using it for film by this point, everyone else in the class was in there to listen to music, make out or just skip doing any work entirely. It was a shame, I learnt so much about photography by starting from a photogram, moving to a pinhole with a coffee tin and then finally to an SLR. I have some prints from my time in school which I’ll share in a different post, and although they aren’t all amazing photographs or photograms they are prints I will cherish because we all have to start somewhere.

©Jennifer Schussler

PROJECT – Seeing Red

CAMERA: Robot Disderi 3
FILM: Kodak Ultramax 400
I suffer from creative blocks all the time. Often I can go months without developing or finishing a film that only has a few shots left, and motivation to conceptualise project based work can also be difficult.
One way I try to push through this is by simply dividing the world into two columns, one thing and everything else. Here, for example, I had already loaded my Robot Disderi 3 camera with some film and taken a few shots but then not picked up the camera again for a while. So, I took it out on a nice day and a long walk around London, where I ended up in St James’s and saw something simple, something red. From there I took photos of any red thing I could find. Even with something as simple as colour this focus immediately creates a new body of work and start my brain ticking over again. I found that by focusing on a specific colour it forced my brain to only look for it, so by sorting through my environment with colour I also started to notice other colours. I think – ‘that isn’t red, but it’s interesting’ – so I allow myself to take a photo of it too. By the end of the day I have a finished roll of film and a cohesive bunch of photographs that I really like, how very productive!
(And yes, I know there are quite a few post boxes but I was ruthless about stopping every time I saw red and tried to compose an interesting shot regardless. It’s London, they are everywhere!)
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And some other colours
(I particularly liked the pink trash bags with the pink flowers, so chic in a posh neighbourhood!)
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©Jennifer Schussler