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 usual result is a negative shadow image that shows variations in tone that depends 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.

Photograms are sometimes called “Captured Shadows”.





Simple, safe, and a whole lot of fun. Cyanotype was created (discovered) by the English scientist, astronomer, polymath, and all around rad dude, Sir John Herschel in 1842.

Just like a photogram, an image can be produced by exposing it to a source of ultraviolet light (like the sun). The UV light reduces the iron(III) to iron(II). This is followed by a complex reaction of the iron(II) complex with ferricyanide. The result is an insoluble, blue dye (ferric ferrocyanide) known as Prussian blue. Kind of sounds like cyanide, that name should ring a bell. SUPER DEADLY Poison. That being said, the only way to release the toxic is by using sulfuric acid. So don’t do that, oh, and maybe you shouldn’t eat it.

Exposure times range from 5 minutes to 25 minutes, depending on the UV value. You then develop the print in water. The cyanotype is perhaps the safest photo printing method available.





Image by Meghann Ripenhoff

Sir John Herschel

Julia_Margaret_Cameron_-_John_Herschel_(Metropolitan_Museum_of_Art_copy,_restored)photo by Julia Margaret Cameron

Sir John Herschel was a scientist and astronomer like his father, Sir William Herschel. In 1809 he entered the University of Cambridge; in 1812 he submitted his first mathematical paper to the Royal Society, of which he was elected a fellow the following year. An accomplished chemist, Herschel discovered the action of hyposulfite of soda on otherwise insoluble silver salts in 1819, which led to the use of “hypo” as a fixing agent in photography. In 1839, independently of William Henry Fox Talbot, Herschel also invented a photographic process using sensitized paper. It was Herschel who coined the use of the terms photographypositive, and negative to refer to photographic images.  

In 1820 Herschel became a founding member of the Royal Astronomical Society. From 1833 until 1838, his astronomical investigations brought him and his family to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, where he met Julia Margaret Cameron, who became a lifelong friend. In 1850 Herschel was appointed master of the Mint, but he resigned six years later due to poor health. His remaining years were spent working on his catalogs of double stars and of nebulae and star clusters.


Some of his work:





Anna Atkins


Atkins was born in Tonbridge, Kent, United Kingdom in 1799. Her mother Hester Anne Children “didn’t recover from the effects of childbirth” and died in 1800. Anna became close to her father John George Children. Anna “received an unusually scientific education for a woman of her time.” Her detailed engravings of shells were used to illustrate her father’s translation of Lamarck’s Genera of Shells.

In 1825 she married John Pelly Atkins, a London West India merchant, and they moved to Halstead Place, the Atkins family home in Sevenoaks, Kent. They had no children. Atkins pursued her interests in botany, for example by collecting dried plants. These were probably used as photograms later.

Atkins self-published her photograms in the first installment of Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions in October 1843. Although privately published, with a limited number of copies, and with handwritten text, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions is considered the first book illustrated with photographic images.

Atkins produced a total of three volumes of Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions between 1843 and 1853. Only 17 copies of the book are known to exist, in various states of completeness.

I have seen a few of her prints in person, at the Legion of Honor in SF, they are amazing, detailed, and beautiful.

This is a person who you NEED to know. Not only for her work, not only because she is a bad ass woman photographer, not only because her work still informs artists today, but because she is the grandmother of photobooks and to some level Zines.








Rayograms : Man Ray


Man Ray (born Emmanuel Radnitzky, August 27, 1890 – November 18, 1976) was an American visual artist who spent most of his career in France. He was a significant contributor to the Dada and Surrealist movements, although his ties to each were informal. He produced major works in a variety of media but considered himself a painter above all. He was best known for his photography, and he was a renowned fashion and portrait photographer. Man Ray is also noted for his work with photograms, which he called “rayographs” in reference to himself.

He made his “rayographs” without a camera by placing objects-such as the thumbtacks, coil of wire, and other circular forms used here-directly on a sheet of photosensitized paper and exposing it to light. Man Ray had photographed everyday objects before, but these unique, visionary images immediately put the photographer on par with the avant-garde painters of the day. Hovering between the abstract and the representational, the rayographs revealed a new way of seeing that delighted the Dadaist poets who championed his work, and that pointed the way to the dreamlike visions of the Surrealist writers and painters who followed.

His rayograph work was an attempt to capture motion in a still image.



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Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥasan ibn al-Ḥasan ibn al-Haytha


he was an Arab Philosopher who made HUGE contributions to the world of science, math, etc… but mostly we need to know who he is because he may be the great-great-grandfather of optics.

His most famous work is his seven-volume treatise on optics Kitab al-Manazir (Book of Optics), written from 1011CE to 1021CE. It is SUPER long and crazy complex, but what you should know is his biggest achievement was to come up with a theory which successfully combined parts of the mathematical ray arguments of Euclid, the medical tradition of Galen, and the intromission theories of Aristotle. Alhazen’s intromission theory asserted that “from each point of every colored body, illuminated by any light, issue light and color along every straight line that can be drawn from that point”. This is about 65 years before the Chinese start writing about it.

He described a ‘dark chamber’ and experimented with images seen through the pinhole. He arranged three candles in a row and put a screen with a small hole between the candles and the wall. He noted that images were formed only by means of small holes and that the candle to the right made an image to the left on the wall. I know it seems like a “so what” kind of thing, but it was super important.

AND I just want you to know this name.

Nicéphore Niépce


The date of Niépce’s first photographic experiments is uncertain. He was led to them by his interest in the new art of lithography, for which he realized he lacked the necessary skill and artistic ability, and by his acquaintance with the camera obscura, a drawing aid which was popular among affluent dilettantes in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Yes, the camera was made because Nicéphore couldn’t draw to save his life.

There is a long story about how much he tried to make these surfaces that would allow for the image that was being seen in a camera obscura permanent. Super toxic chemicals on metal, or glass, or even stone. He eventually was successful. Sort of. He made a method to create a lithographic surface. Niépce’s process rather than by laborious and inexact hand-engraving or drawing on lithographic stones. They are, in essence, the oldest photocopies.

Niépce called his process heliography, which literally means “sun drawing”. In 1822, he used it to create what is believed to have been the world’s first permanent photographic image, the image at the top of the page.



A style of photography and imagery based on an application of the principles of fine art, and, in particular, on ideas of beauty and nature deriving from the Picturesque. It is an approach to photography that emphasizes beauty of subject matter, tonality, and composition rather than the documentation of reality. Although specifically identified in the late 19th century and the early 20th, the underlying aesthetic was a response to the ongoing debate about photography’s scientific and artistic status.

Pictorialists in the United States included Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, and in the late work of Stieglitz, Paul Strand, and Edward Weston.

By the late 1920s, as the aesthetics of Modernism took hold, the term Pictorialism came to describe a tired convention. There was also a movement away from the “beautiful” in all art, as a reaction to the horrors that were seen in World War I .








Pinhole Camera


A pinhole camera, a variation of Camera obscura, is a simple camera without a lens and with a single small aperture, a pinhole – effectively a light-proof box with a small hole in one side. Light from a scene passes through this single point and projects an inverted image on the opposite side of the box. Exposures can typically range from five seconds up to as much as several hours. The effect was noted in the 5th century BC in China and has been refined over the centuries.

A pinhole camera is completely dark on all the other sides of the box including the side where the point is created. This part is usually painted black, but black boxes are also used for this purpose. There is also a thin screen which looks like a projector sheet, and is put in between the dark side adjacent to the pinhole.

Up to a certain point, the smaller the hole, the sharper the image, but the dimmer the projected image. Optimally, the size of the aperture should be 1/100 or less of the distance between it and the projected image.

Because a pinhole camera requires a lengthy exposure, its shutter may be manually operated, as with a flap made of light-proof material to cover and uncover the pinhole. Typical exposures range from five seconds to several hours. The images that I make are usually from 2 min to 7 minutes.

NOTE: In really bright light, when using film, your exposure times can be in the SINGLE Second to half-second range.

Click on the first image below for my presentation on how to make a pinhole camera. ↓


Modern Pinhole Photographers

tumblr_n3baz1pq741qi1a9fo1_1280pinhole shot by Larissa Honsek

pinhole shot by Larissa Honsek


Photo by Justin Quinnell

Photo by Justin Quinnell


10Photo by Frank Machalowski
Photo by Frank Machalowski

Photo by Frank Machalowski


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Photo by Alyson Belcher

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Photo by Alyson Belcher

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 1.13.40 PMPhoto by Alyson Belcher


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Photo by Scott Speck

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Photo by Scott Speck

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Photo by Scott Speck

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Photo by Scott Speck

Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre


On January 7, 1839, members of the French Académie des Sciences were shown products of an invention that would forever change the nature of visual representation: photography. The astonishingly precise pictures they saw were the work of Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (1787–1851), a Romantic painter and printmaker most famous until then as the proprietor of the Diorama, a popular Parisian spectacle featuring theatrical painting and lighting effects. Each daguerreotype (as Daguerre dubbed his invention) was a one-of-a-kind image on a highly polished, silver-plated sheet of copper.

He worked with Nicéphore Niépce, on how to make a permanent image using light and chemistry—and who had achieved primitive but real results as early as 1826. By the time Niépce died in 1833, the partners had yet to come up with a practical, reliable process.

Not until 1838 had Daguerre’s continued experiments progressed to the point where he felt comfortable showing examples of the new medium to selected artists and scientists in the hope of lining up investors.

Each daguerreotype is a remarkably detailed, one-of-a-kind photographic image on a highly polished, silver-plated sheet of copper, sensitized with iodine vapors, exposed in a large box camera, developed in mercury fumes, and stabilized (or fixed) with salt water or “hypo” (sodium thiosulphate).

From the moment of its birth, photography had a dual character—as a medium of artistic expression and as a powerful scientific tool—and Daguerre promoted his invention on both fronts. Several of his earliest plates were still-life compositions of plaster casts after antique sculpture—an ideal subject since the white casts reflected light well, were immobile during long exposures, and lent, by association, the aura of “art” to pictures made by mechanical means.

Neither Daguerre’s microscopic nor his telescopic daguerreotypes survive, for on March 8, 1839, the Diorama—and with it Daguerre’s laboratory—burned to the ground, destroying the inventor’s written records and the bulk of his early experimental works.

Fewer than twenty-five photographs by Daguerre survive…






The Tintype

A tintype, also known as a melainotype or ferrotype, is a photograph made by creating a direct positive on a thin sheet of metal coated with a dark lacquer or enamel and used as the support for the photographic emulsion. Tintypes enjoyed their widest use during the 1860s and 1870s, but lesser use of the medium persisted into the early 20th century and it has been revived as a novelty in the 21st.

The great thing about Tintypes is that they are SUPER HIGH RESOLUTION!




They were called TinTypes not because they were shot onto TIN, but it was a derogatory term for something cheap and with no value. The great thing about TinTypes is that it make photography available to EVERYONE. Before them you had to be rich in order to get a picture done. No people were getting pictures done who were just normal working folk.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 5.42.38 PMIt was something that you could do at a carnival or faire.

It is not an easy process to do. It is also considered a WET PROCESS. Your chemicals have to be wet when you take the image, or you can’t get a result.


Most of this has to be done in COMPLETE DARK. It’s a drag. And the exposures are REALLY LONG. And you will often need to use crap ton of light in order to make an exposure.


Drew-Afghanistan0001This is taken by my friend Ed Drew. This is the great grandson of Buffalo Bill.

TINTYPE COPYRIGHT OF VICTORIA WILLfrom the Oscars by Victoria Will

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 5.49.08 PMShot by Josh Brand. (Full light of summer sun, 4 second exposure)


Watch this 9 minute video, it’s worth seeing.

Photos for The People

When we talk about making photos available for the people, for everyone, you have to really consider Carte de visite.

This was a type of small photograph which was patented in Paris, France by photographer André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri in 1854, although first used by Louis Dodero. It was usually made of an albumen print, which was a thin paper photograph mounted on a thicker paper card. The size of a carte de visite is 54.0 mm (2.125 in) × 89 mm (3.5 in) mounted on a card sized 64 mm (2.5 in) × 100 mm (4 in).

These are the precursors to the idea of a “baseball” collectors card.

Each photograph was the size of a visiting card, and such photograph cards were traded among friends and visitors. Albums for the collection and display of cards became a common fixture in Victorian parlors. The immense popularity of these card photographs led to the publication and collection of photographs of prominent persons.

Queen Victoria

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 5.56.53 PMYou SHOULD know this guy. It was said that these images of him won him the election.

BtnPointerCat02AND CATS!

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 5.56.32 PMAnd famous actresses on set

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 5.58.02 PMAnd replication of classic art works (La Grande Odalisque)

William Henry Fox Talbot


He was also a frustrated artist, in the mid 1800s (1800–1877 to be exact). He was a  graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge, and when his photo discoveries started he had  recently been elected as a Liberal member of Parliament in the House of Commons. He like many of the other inventors of this  time was a true polymath. He did mathematics, chemistry, astronomy, and botany, philosophy, philology, Egyptology, AND art history.

His motivation was that his camera lucida never let him accurately capture the world. It wasn’t  his own feeble drawings, rather he recalled with pleasure “the inimitable beauty of the pictures of nature’s painting which the glass lens of the Camera throws upon the paper in its focus—fairy pictures, creations of a moment, and destined as rapidly to fade away.”  He wanted to know how to make these natural images imprint THEMSELVES onto paper. Forever. He wanted to know why it wasn’t possible.

In early 1834 he began to experiment with the idea that had occurred to him, he found that a sheet of fine writing paper, coated with salt and brushed with a solution of silver nitrate, darkened in the sun, and that a second coating of salt impeded further darkening or fading.

Talbot used this discovery to make precise tracings of botanical specimens: he set a pressed leaf or plant on a piece of sensitized paper, covered it with a sheet of glass, and set it in the sun. Wherever the light struck, the paper darkened, but wherever the plant blocked the light, it remained white. He called his new discovery “the art of photogenic drawing.” (think about the old cyanotype)

As his chemistry improved, Talbot returned to his original idea of photographic images made in a camera. During the “brilliant summer of 1835,” he took full advantage of the unusually abundant sunshine and placed pieces of sensitized photogenic drawing paper in miniature cameras.

Occupied with other activities, Talbot worked little on his invention between the sunny days of 1835 and January 1839, when the stunning news arrived that a Frenchman, Louis Daguerre, had invented a wholly different means of recording camera pictures with dazzling precision on metal plates.

On September 23, 1840, he found a way. He discovered that an exposure of mere seconds, leaving no visible trace on the chemically treated paper, nonetheless left a latent image that could be brought out with the application of an “exciting liquid” (essentially a solution of gallic acid). This discovery, was called the “calotype” process (from the Greek kalos, meaning beautiful), opened up a whole new world of possible subjects for photography.

Talbot’s early photogenic drawings are so ephemeral that, despite their exceptional beauty, they can never be exhibited or exposed to light without risk of change.

Remember he called the work “the pencil of nature”






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