Creating photograms is the process of using the action of light, light sensitive paper and partially transparent objects to create a camera less image. Is is the reaction of the silver nitrate within the paper that reacts with light, allowing for the opaque material to create an image on the page. The image is then developed with interesting results being produced on the paper, due to the differing opacities and translucencies of the overlaid objects.


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

  1. What objects are opaque enough to be used as photogram objects to be printed on paper?
  2. Can I layer up my objects to create a more dynamic scene?
  3. does using transparent printed overlays produce an image?


I predict that photograms can be easily done as long as the material being used has some transparent element to it. Also a brighter light source will be required to allow the light to transmit through thicker materials.



The history of photography is punctuated by practitioners who have developed a technique or style that has become a part of art history.  The first period of “photogram” exploration was to gain scientific record of natural objects (e.g. Anna Atkins).  The second period was a rediscovery of the artistic potential as illustrated by Christian Schad, Man Ray and Lazlo Moholy-Nagy in the Dada, Surrealist and Constructivist periods of art, respectively.

During research I came across the work of Martha Madigan which was very appealing to me. She used the silhouette of a person, then overlays other objects that appears to colour them in with a pattern.


I have found these photograms to be very awe-inspiring due to their complex appearance and detailed form. I have attempted my own style of photograms had hold similarities to Martha’s work.

I have printed portrait images onto paper, then I have printed smaller objects onto acetate. I created the patterns on the image with the acetates, then carefully placed onto light sensitive paper and exposed to ten seconds of bright light.

I am particularly pleased with images 5, 6 and 7 as they hold some similarity to Martha Madigan’s work in the layering and visual complexity. I printed off different shaped objects such as leaves, flowers and Indian style elephant onto acetate so that the light would easily shine through and create shapes on top of the image. This appears to have created the effect desired, however further experimentation is still required. I could possibly revisit this topic and create life size versions of human portraits in natural sunshine, and they overlay the materials just like Madigan.

The use of transparent positives has produced a negative result due to the process. However I find merit in the aesthetic for the graphical element it introduces, rather than just a plain image.



To summarise I find photograms to be a fairly easy technique unless you experiment and become extra creative. The standard photogram is easy to replicate by just placing objects onto paper. However, layering up and adding different textures and shapes can add dimension and peculiar form.





[1] CAPTURED SHADOWS, (2016). Photograms. [Online] Available from:                                                                                                     [Accessed: 28 April 2016]

[2] MARTHAMADIGAN, (2016). Photograms. [Online] Available from:                                                                                   [Accessed: 28 April 2016]

[3] VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM, (2016). Camera-less Photography: Techniques. [Online] Available from:                                                                                               [Accessed:08 May 2016]

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