Photography and Photagrams 2 – A Beginner’s Guide – An article by Goff James

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Goff James, Untitled, Photogram

Experimenting with photograms and finding out what they are.

A photogram is a type of contact print, made without the use of a camera or negative,

A photogram is created by placing objects on light sensitive material and then exposing it to light.

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Goff James, Untitled, Photogram
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Goff James, Untitled, Photogram

The resulting image is a negative shadow varying intone density which is dependent upon the transparency of the objects used.

Areas of the paper that have received no light appear white; those exposed through transparent or semi-transparent objects appear grey.

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A photogram takes the principles of photography right back to its roots using light to paint pictures.

The principle is simple – one exposes a sheet of light sensitive photographic paper, to light and block its path with selected objects to create silhouette shapes where the light is blocked.

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Silver Halide


A compound of silver and a halogen; for example, silver bromide (AgBr), silver chloride (AgCl), silver fluoride (AgF), andsilver iodide (AgI).

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The light sensitivity of the silver halides is key to the photographic process. Tiny crystals of all three of these compounds are used in making photographic film. When exposed to light, a chemical reaction darkens the film to produce an image.

AgCl, for example, consists of crystals of tightly packed ions of silver and chlorine, denoted Ag+ and Cl-. The “+” and “-” symbols tell us that Ag ion (Ag+) is missing one negatively charged electron and that Cl ion (Cl-) has an extra electron.

When film containing Ag+ and Cl- is exposed to light energy, the chlorine ion’s extra electron is ejected and then captured by a silver ion.
Electron ejected from chlorine (Oxidation):

Electron captured by silver (Reduction):

When silver metal forms as a result of the electron capture, it forms a dark image on film. Chemically the Ag+ has been “reduced” to Ag (metal). At the same time, Cl- is said to be “oxidized.”

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I have also done a little experimenting in the photo editor I have. If you have an editor don’t be afraid to experiment. This is your photography world you can do what you like.

I trust that you find some of these ideas useful within the context of your own photography. Don’t be afraid to experiment and allow different ideas to develop as you go along. Toyed with the use of monochrome and the effect and impact that it might have or not have on narrative creation.

Remember what I referred to in previous articles about taking photos; the same applies to considering your own and others photos.

Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Experiment! Experiment! Experiment!

There are no right or wrong answers or ways of doing it. 

Don’t worry about the theory and trying to remember everything about how to take or consider how to look at or stage a photograph.

Don’t worry about what you might think is right or wrong in talking about or taking photographs.

 Make mistakes. Laugh. Have funJust Enjoy the process.

Happy Photography.

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Reference List