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the photograph as a physical object « Previous | |Next »
December 23, 2008

Courtesy of S2art at musings from the photographic memepool [the shallow end]. US photographers like Henry Holmes Smith (1909 -1986) and Frederick Sommer (1905-1999) stood in a tradition of camera-less photography. They gradually shifted their style to the more abstract and personal, to thinking of a photograph as a physical object in its own right, rather than solely as a reflection of the outside world.

SmithHenryHolmes.jpg Henry Holmes Smith, Light Abstraction,

This is the tradition of Moholy-Nagy and Man Ray who pioneered the creating of photographic prints without the use of a camera in the 1920s. In the late 1940s Henry Holmes Smith developed a technique of "liquid-and-light" drawing by carefully pouring a layer of thick, viscous corn syrup directly onto a sheet of 19th Century glass, forming the characteristic figurative elements of his clichés-verre.

The negatives were printed in contact on conventional sensitized photographic paper and developed by traditional methods in Smith's photo laboratory. A limited number of prints were thus made before the syrup was eventually scraped off.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 3:17 PM | | Comments (5)


This is a completely mesmerizing image, I could look at it for hours.

I've been making cliché verres since the mid-80s. Check them out at the above website. Thanks

Another website of my photography:

There is the 19th centry tradition of the hand drawn negative There is some commentary here

thanks for the links. Much appreciated. The cliche verres sure constitute a substantial body of work. They are very interesting. A favourite from this portfolio of your work.

Your Oxford project is very impressive---photographing every resident (676) in Oxford Iowa, USA, in 1984, then re-photographing those still alive 21 years latter in 2005. I sure hope the Smithsonian, or some similar public institution in the US, is safeguarding that important work in the tradition of Mike Disfarmer. Nothing similar has been attempted in Australia as far as I know.

Gary, I believe that the printing process used by Henry Holmes Smith, was called DYE transfer, a technically challenging, but nonetheless beautiful process, allowing the artist infinite control over colour, it also had superb archival qualities. Elliot Porter and Robert Mapplethorpe also used the process. I learned about it at at Uni, but it was a dying craft even in the 80's.