The word photography means “writing with light” and during the more than 175-year history of the medium artists have tried many interpretations of that definition. One of the earliest forms of photography involved placing an object on paper that was treated with light-sensitive chemicals and exposing it to the sun. Areas of the paper exposed to light changed color, creating an outline around the area of paper covered by the object. Today, this very basic form of photography is commonly known as a sun print and in the art world as a photogram.
This technique has been revised and revisited by artists who are attracted to its directness as well as its challenge to the artistic traditions of representation and storytelling. One of its pleasures is the contradiction between the necessary realism of a picture created using materials from our physical world and the abstract or non-narrative picture that often results. Most photograms are not pictures “of” something, even when you can identify what was used to make them (a leaf, a compact disk). Often, they are not even “about” something. They are pictures to enjoy on their own terms.
This group exhibition includes more than two dozen cameraless photographs by Caleb Charland, Susannah Hays, Leigh Anne Langwell, David Ondrik, Carol Panaro-Smith and James Hajicek, and Norman Sarachek. A fascinating group of images of explosions in the desert are featured in an installation of work by Phoenix artist Christopher Colville titled Works of Fire. Another unusual installation is Wait and See, by Swiss artists Françoise and Daniel Cartier, in which expired photo paper is hung on the wall and exposed over the course of the exhibition.
In the photographs in this exhibition – all made without a camera, a lens, or a scanner – each artist takes us on a visual journey to a place where our visual knowledge of the world is of little assistance. With their inventive use of materials, they invite us to encounter something we have never before seen and to question our idea of what a photograph can be.