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Simon Trahar

on 16 September 2013

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Transcript of Photograms

Invented: 1839 William Henry Fox Talbot
Man Ray makes the technique his own
Christian Schad: 1919-DADA
Biography provided by Focal Press

While recognized as a painter and proponent of the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) whose cold realist portraits reveal the hedonism and apathy in Weimar Germany, he is also acclaimed as the 20th century’s earliest practitioner of experimental camera-less photography in the tradition of Talbot’s "photogenic drawing." Using torn tickets, receipts, and other "trash," he created chance arrangements on photographic film called "Schadographs," so named by the Dada artist and leader Tristan Tzara. In the iconoclastic aura of experimentation that European Dada and Surrealism engendered, artists such as Lazlo Moholy-Nagy and Man Ray independently discovered the creative capabilities of the photogram, but Schad’s experiments preceded theirs by several years and exemplified the Dada ethos of making art from junk.

(Author: Garie Waltzer - Photographer and consultant)
Susan Derges
Adam Fuss
[Dandelion Seeds], 1858 or later
William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800–1877)
Photogravure (photoglyphic engraving from a copper plate)
Album di Disegni Fotogenici: The "Bertoloni Album"
William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800–1877)
Album of 36 photogenic drawings

Man Ray (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1890–1976 Paris)
Date: 1922
[Rayograph; Comb, Straight Razor Blade, Needle and Other Forms]

British-born artist Adam Fuss constructs his photographs without the use of a camera. In his recent photograms, Fuss extends the camera-less tradition first explored by photography’s pioneers such as William Henry Fox Talbot and Anna Atkins, and later mined by artists of the 1920s such as Man Ray, Moholy-Nagy, and Christian Schad. Fuss’s work is made from the simplest of means: light and a sheet of photographic paper. The current exhibition is comprised of two bodies of work. The spirals are based on a circular form of intense white light, surrounded by concentric rings like ripples from a stone dropped in water. The babies are formed by the dark silhouettes of infants swimming in what appear to be golden pools of light. Both series seem undeniably spiritual in nature; it is difficult when looking at Fuss’s images not to feel that aspects of both death and birth are being addressed
Adam Fuss, 'Invocation', 1992, photogram. Museum no. E.693-1993
Christian Schad
Schadographie Nr. 152

Gelatin silver print, photomontage
10 x 7.7
Only some 30 early Schadographs are known to exist, and very few remain in private hands. The majority can be found in museum collections including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Gilman Paper Company Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and the Kunsthaus Zürich.
In its pure play of tone and form, and its erratic shape, Schadograph No. 17 is a kind of puzzle that calls to mind the Cubist paintings of Schad's contemporaries Braque and Picasso, Arp's biomorphic wood reliefs, and the energy of Futurism. The overlapping layers of words, phrases and fragmented letters are Dada poetry made visual. Schad described his intuitive, spontaneous compositions as 'immaterial collages,' a 'game of planes and forms.' Like the collages of Kurt Schwitters, Schad's photograms are composed from found objects, discarded materials such as torn paper, fabric and newsprint. In order to achieve his photographic results, Schad placed his chosen objects on top of photographic paper, under a sheet of glass to hold them in place, and then exposed the assemblage to light. Whereas collages retain such physical ingredients, however, the photogram leaves only their mysterious traces in varying densities and layers of light, and reversal of tones, in the surface of the photographic emulsion.
Untitled, Schadographie Nr. 17, 1919
gelatin silver printing-out print (photogram)
Price Realized
Jonathon Beattie:Decorative/Symmetry/Digital
Cameraless Photography
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