Burning Photographs


Upon researching alternative photography techniques I came across the work of Lucas Simoes and in particular his photographic burning technique. I found the results of this technique particularly dramatic and aesthetically appealing although destructive in manner.


For the purpose of this study the following question(s) were addressed:

  1. How are these images produced?
  2. Does this work with developed film photographs as well as digitally printed images?



Equipped with the knowledge of how these images are created, can I produce a set of my own burned portrait images that resemble the quality of Lucas Simoes originals.




My methodology mainly came from experimentation. After experimenting with lighters I soon realised that they were not up to the job and I needed a more precise flame. This eventually lead me to the use of a gas torch which had a very precise and hot flame which created the desired effect.

The results differed between developed photographs and digitally printed ones in that the reactions of the chemicals created different colours. The developed photographs tended to produce a more orange colour hue and diffuse whitening. Whereas the digitally printed photographs tended to produce green hues and the photo coating tried to crack off the paper.

Many attempts were made to erode the photograph with things such as white spirit and acetone but neither were very successful proving developed photographs to be very hardy.





After experimentation I chose two portrait’s to try to more closely recreate the work of Lucas Simoes. The first print that I did had small print lines in it due to printed error but I still used this as a chance to practice burning the correct facial area to create a desirable image.


I recreated this in the second correctly printed image and became a little more vigorous with my technique. This resulted in an enhanced version of the prior image.

Due to the differing burn patterns I decided to overlay both portrait images to create a composite that combines the two burn patters into one image.


I decided to try the technique on a self portrait to try and differentiate and create my own variation of the method, I chose to just accurately burn out the eyes rather than the whole face.

I believe that this was effective in a number of ways, firstly that the removal of someone’s eye’s immediately causes alarm or shock and secondly, the flame of the torch reacting with the chemicals created an intricate pattern around them that has a very spooky effect.

I was dissatisfied with the original portrait but upon enhancement it has transformed into an image I find more aesthetically pleasing. During the burning process al the images were warped due to the heat, so when it came to scanning it revealed gradients due to the undulations in the paper. I was originally unhappy with this but due to the almost textural nature of the images I find that they add the overall mood.



I have found this process and particularly the combination of both of them can create extremely stylised and impressive imagery. I believe the final set of images hols an aesthetic suitable for things such as album covers or music promotion. It is my opinion that they hold parallels with the work of Brian Griffin’s. I also feel they demonstrate qualities reminiscent of a David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust album. I have found the process when implemented at the correct time, can create an enhanced aesthetic to original photographs.




[1] STUDENT ART GUIDE. (2015) 100+ Creative Photography Ideas: Techniques, Composition and Mixed Media Approaches. [Online] Available from: http://www.studentartguide.com/articles/creative-photography-ideas                   [Accessed: 15 February 2016]

[2] LUCAS SIMOES, (2014). Assembling The Pieces. [Online] Available from: http://learn.surbitonhigh.com/brickard/2014/12/08/burning-holes/                    [Accessed: 08 May 2016]

[3] BIZARRE BEYOND BELIEF MAGAZINE, (2016). Lucas Simoes: Burning Photographs. [Online] Available from: https://bizarrebeyondbelief.com/2012/06/10/lucas-simoes-burning-photos/       [Accessed: 08 May 2016]

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