Camera-less photography: artists

Floris Neusüss, photographer.

Floris Neusüss, photographer.

Floris Neusüss

Floris Neusüss (born Lennep, Germany, 1937) has dedicated his whole career to extending the practice, study and teaching of the photogram. Alongside his work as an artist, he is known as an influential writer and teacher on camera-less photography.

Neusüss brought renewed ambition to the photogram process, in both scale and visual treatment, with the Körperfotogramms (or whole-body photograms) that he first exhibited in the 1960s. Since that time, he has consistently explored the photogram's numerous technical, conceptual and visual possibilities.

His works often deal in opposites: black and white, shadow and light, movement and stillness, presence and absence, and in the translation of three dimensions into two. By removing objects from their physical context, Neusüss encourages the viewer to contemplate the essence of form. He creates a feeling of surreal detachment, a sense of disengagement from time and the physical world. Collectively, his images explore themes of mythology, history, nature and the subconscious.


Video: Floris Neusüss

At Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire, England, Floris Neusüss reveals his preparations to make a picture without a camera - a 'photogram' - of the window that formed the subject of William Henry Fox Talbot's first photographic negative, made there in 1835. In the Abbey's grounds Neusüss also demonstrates the creation of 'cyanotype' photograms using fern leaves, recreating the methods of the very first photographs.

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Pierre Cordier, photographer.

Pierre Cordier, photographer.

Pierre Cordier

Pierre Cordier (born Brussels, Belgium, 1933) discovered the 'chemigram' process in 1956. Over many years, he has explored the potential of the chemigram like an experimental scientist.

Working more like a painter or printmaker than a photographer, Cordier replaces the canvas or printing plate with photographic paper. He applies photographic developer to the paper to create dark areas and fixer for lighter tones. Further changes to shape and pattern are made by 'localising' products such as varnish, wax, glue, oil, egg and syrup. These protect the surface of the photographic emulsion or can be incised to create a drawing, graphic motif or written text. Entrancing chemical and physical reactions can then be made by repeatedly dipping the paper in photographic developer and fixer. This method allows him to create images impossible to realise by any other means. The process has become the artwork and his style is his technique.


Video: Pierre Cordier

Cordier is seen here in his Brussels studio. Working more like a painter or printmaker than a photographer, he replaces the canvas or printing plate with photographic paper. Using photographic chemicals - as well as varnish, wax, glue, oil, egg and syrup - he creates enigmatic images that are impossible to realize by any other means. In Cordier's work, the process itself becomes the artwork and his style is his technique.

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Garry Fabian Miller, photographer.

Garry Fabian Miller, photographer.

Garry Fabian Miller

In 1984 Garry Fabian Miller (born Bristol, England, 1957) discovered a method of using a photographic enlarger that allowed a direct translation between plants and the photographic print. Later, in 1992, he turned to making abstract images in the darkroom, using only glass vessels filled with liquids, or cut-paper forms to cast shadows and filter light.

Many of his works explore the cycle of time over a day, month or year, through controlled experiments with varying durations of light exposure. His works are enriched by being seen in sequences that explore and develop a single motif and colour-range. Often, the images are conceived as remembered landscapes and natural light phenomena.

At the heart of Fabian Miller's vision is a belief in the contemplative existence of the artist, whose practice and life outside metropolitan culture are intertwined. The works he creates are simple, yet multi-layered - tranquil yet energised.


Video: Garry Fabian Miller

Garry Fabian Miller creates glowing abstract photographs by casting shadows, or blocking and filtering light on photographic paper in the darkroom. He often walks on Dartmoor for inspiration, the location of his home and studio in south-west England. This film shows the dramatic landscape and the artist at work, discussing the symbolism of his powerful imagery.

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Susan Derges, photographer.

Susan Derges, photographer.

Susan Derges

Susan Derges (born London, England, 1955) studied painting at Chelsea School of Art and the Slade School of Fine Art, London. She then lived in Japan for six years, before returning to the UK in 1986. Her images reveal the hidden forces of nature, from the patterns of sound waves to the flow of rivers.

During the 1990s, Derges became well known for her photograms of water. To make these works, she used the landscape at night as her darkroom, submerging large sheets of photographic paper in rivers and using the moon and flashlight to create the exposure.

Within seeming chaos, Derges conveys a sense of wonder at the underlying orderliness. She examines the threshold between two interconnected worlds: an internal, imaginative or contemplative space and the external, dynamic, magical world of nature. Her works can be seen as alchemical, transformative acts that test the threshold between matter and spirit.


Video: Susan Derges

Susan Derges uses the landscape at night as her darkroom, submerging large sheets of photographic paper in rivers and using the moon and flashlight to create the exposure. This film shows her working in her studio, preparing to make a photogram outdoors, and discussing her use of water as a metaphor for transformation.

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Adam Fuss, photographer, by Adam Waldman.

Adam Fuss, photographer, by Adam Waldman.

Adam Fuss

Adam Fuss (born London, England, 1961) grew up moving between rural Sussex in the South of England and Australia before settling to work in New York in 1982. He made his first photogram in 1986.

His work concerns the discovery of the unseen: it deals with time and energy rather than material form. As well as mastering numerous historic and modern photographic techniques, Fuss has developed an array of symbolic or emblematic motifs.

Drawing upon his childhood memories and personal experiences, his works are conceived as visual elegies centred around the universal themes of life and death. Through outward sensory vision, they explore metaphysical ideas of non-sensory insight.


Video: Adam Fuss

Conceived as visual elegies, Adam Fuss's work is about the discovery of the unseen, the expression of the ephemeral and the universal themes of life and death. Working in his darkroom, he creates a series of 'daguerreotype' photograms of butterflies. Now a largely obsolete photographic medium, the daguerreotype was first used in the 1840s. Fuss also uses live snakes in his studio, making images that explore the animal's symbolic and metaphorical meanings.

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This text was originally written to accompany the exhibition Shadow Catchers: Camera-less Photography, on display at the V&A South Kensington between 13 October 2010 and 20 February 2011.

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